World Health Day celebrated on April 7 under the auspices of the United Nations has been a window to many health issues. This year, the event set the focus on depression as a big health risk.

The yearlong campaign: "Depression: let's talk" rightly highlighted the plight of more than 300 million people living with the mental illness and languishing in depression.

The campaign highlighted the destabilizing role depression plays in general healthcare and its rise as a major source of disability. Trauma is compounded when the skewed access to mental health services and the social stigma are taken into account.

Serious Impact On Families

Depression significantly affects the families of the sufferers. The brunt of the sporadic mood swings and irritability of depressed people take a toll on the peace and harmony in families. This calls for behavioral and psychiatric therapies to liberate people from the pits of depression.

"At worst, depression can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds," says WHO.

In the last decade, between 2005 and 2015, depression grew by 18 percent and became the major cause of disability. The worst affected are people from low- to middle-income countries.

Rising Suicide Rates

The suicide rate is too high in many low- and middle-income countries among young people in the age group of 20-25. A study by WHO shows more suicides among men compared to women.

In clinical terms, depression has been described as a serious mood disorder that affects feelings, thought process, and constraints daily activities including sleeping, eating, and working.

Major Causes of Depression

Though the real cause of depression is unknown, many reasons are being cited. Some of the common factors that increase depression are:

  • Abuse: Incidents of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse increase the vulnerability to clinical depression.
  • Drugs: Use of drugs such as Isotretinoin, antiviral drug interferon-alpha, and corticosteroids increase the risk of depression.
  • Conflict: Conflicts or disputes with closer relatives or friends can push people into pangs of depression.

Depression can also come over as a scar or mental shock from the departure of a loved one and the feeling of helplessness.

Some Facts About Depression

  • Women Are More Prone To Depression: According to studies, women are easy victims of depression compared to men. This has more to do with the hormones. Pregnancy and childbirth hasten hormonal shifts and induce depression among women. They also come under pressure of work stress and family responsibilities. But women are forthright in seeking medical support to their problem, compared to men.
  • Link with Genetics: Experts believe that 50 percent of depression stems from genetics, and it is not just one gene, but a combination of them causes it. Those with a depressed parent or sibling face a higher risk than someone without a family history. The deeper the depression, the stronger will be the linkage to genetics.
  • Abuse: Other underlying causes of depression can include child abuse, early loss of a parent, and heavy stress.
  • First Treatment May Not Be Effective: It is an accepted fact that 50 percent of people diagnosed with major depression will not feel better with the first treatment. This treatment-resistant depression may not show improvement even after six weeks.
  • Talk Therapy Offers Better Results: Talking to mental health experts under the process of psychotherapy about depression helps people. For some, it works even better when backed by antidepressants. Talk therapy is also better for women who feel depressed during and after pregnancy.
  • Hallucinations Need Treatment: Some forms of depression trigger hallucinations with people seeing or believing unreal things. This is a serious stage of psychotic depression where shock treatments will be warranted as antidepressants may not be effective.

Types Of Depression

Medical science has identified many types of depression based on symptoms. Persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia is something that lasts for at least two years.

Depressive feelings are generally characterized by melancholic mood, anxiety, and exhaustion.

There are also seasonal depressions such as the one found during winter months when natural sunlight is low. But seasonal depression will vanish with the onset of spring and summer.

Treatment Through Stimulation Therapies

Depression is curable with treatment if there is the right diagnosis. In the early phase, depression is treated with medications and psychotherapy, or a mix of both.

If such treatments do not subside the symptoms, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies are resorted to.

To some extent, antidepressants improve the mood swings or stress levels. There are different types of antidepressant medicines and they take two to four weeks to work.

Confront Depression Realistically

According to experts, depression takes many disguises. The silver lining is that better tools of diagnosis and treatments are available now. The important point about battling depression is having a realistic approach.

Denial of Depression: Denial of depressive symptoms will be an escape from reality. Taking small steps consistently will help in confronting the reality and opens up the pathway to wellness.

One of the easiest cures for depression is exercise. The basic exercise is walking 30 minutes a day to alleviate the symptoms. That is why therapists take clients for a walk and reduce the couch time.

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