Depression

Introduction – Depression

depression WHAT ARE DEPRESSIVE ILLNESSES?

They are total-body illnesses that affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and physical health and appearance.

They affect all areas of a person’s life – home, work, school, and social life. These illnesses are different from ordinary blues – which are normal feelings that eventually pass. Depressive illnesses last for months or years with varying patterns.

A person with a depressive illness cannot talk themselves into feeling good. They cannot snap themselves out of it. Suffering or not suffering from these illnesses does not have anything to do with a person’s willpower. Many times, society assumes a person suffering from depression is just lazy, or lacks motivation to get his or her life together. One might be labeled as simply having a behaviour problem. This simply is not true.

To determine whether a depressive illness is present or not, a thorough medical examination is essential; Many drugs used in the treatment of other illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure or arthritis, as well as oral contraceptives and some antibiotics, can trigger depressive illnesses. Long-term or sudden illnesses can also bring on or exacerbate a depressive illness. And neurological disorders, hormonal disorders, infections, and tumors can mimic the symptoms of depressive illnesses or anxiety. If all medical tests come out negative, or if chronic physical pain does not respond to treatment, there is a strong possibility a depressive illness exists.

Depression is the most common, most misdiagnosed illness in America. Over 17 million Americans suffer from depressive illnesses in any given year.

WHAT CAUSES A DEPRESSIVE ILLNESS?

Depressive illnesses are not due to personal weakness or a character flaw, but are biological illnesses related to imbalance or disrupted brain chemistry. The brain is an organ of the body and can get sick just like the heart, liver, or kidneys. A combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors all play a role in how and when a depressive illness may manifest itself. And because these are illnesses, stress doesn’t necessarily have to be present, but can trigger or exacerbate a depression.

Depression can appear out of nowhere, when everything is going fine, at a time when there would be no reason for a person to feel depressed. People of all ages, including infants and children (who may be born with a chemical imbalance), can suffer from depressive illnesses. Since they may be genetic, a person who is predisposed may be at a higher risk for developing these illnesses than someone who does not have these illnesses in their family (as in cancer, heart disease, etc.). We needn’t let the fear of inheritability frighten us. This does not mean everyone will inherit a depressive illness. Instead, this is good news.

By recognizing the signs of depressive illnesses early on, people can get the help they need, avoiding needless suffering for months or even years. Depressive illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of. We aren’t ashamed of having other biological illnesses like heart disease or diabetes. And we aren’t ashamed of going to the doctor for treatment of these illnesses. Depression and other depressive illnesses are no different. We would never expect a loved one to treat their high blood pressure on their own. We shouldn’t expect them to treat their depression on their own either.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DEPRESSIVE ILLNESSES?

Yes, all with various symptoms, degrees of severity, and duration.

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – this illness has to do with a person’s reaction to the amount of light a person receives. Symptoms of depression – low energy, fatigue, overeating may appear when the days begin to get shorter and there is less sunlight. People who have Seasonal Affective Disorder may produce an excess of the hormone melatonin, which is related to the body’s sleep cycle and biological clock.

Unipolar Depression – person has times when he/she feels normal, and other times when he/she feels depressed, slowed-down, or in a fog. Their ability to function normally may be significantly impaired. A person may have only one or two episodes, or may continue to have episodes throughout his or her lifetime. Bipolar Illness or Manic Depression – there are two forms of this disease. With the first type, Bipolar I, a person may have dramatic mood swings, from severe lows to extreme highs (mania). A person who is experiencing mania may have excessive energy, he or she may feel restless and unable slow down, appearing hyper. This state causes grandiose thinking, impaired judgment, and often times embarrassing social behaviour. With the second type, Bipolar II, the manias are milder (hypomania) and the lows may be of any severity. A person experiencing hypomania may be very talkative and social, their thinking may be extraordinarily clear and sharp, with heightened creativity. They feel in a wonderfully good mood, but eventually sink into a low period.

Dysthymia – this is chronic mild to moderate depression. A person usually continues to function, but just doesn’t experience the pleasure out of life like a healthy person does.

Cyclothymia – a form of bipolar illness, this is a mood rollercoaster. A person may feel up one day and down the next, or up one week and down the next. Seemingly unpredictable. Periods of normal mood may be few and far between. Hypomanias occur, along with mild depressions.

Atypical Depression – person can still have fun and experience pleasure if an opportunity presents itself, such as a party or good news, but the feeling is short-lived. Heaviness, fatigue, and lack of motivation then recurs until the next pleasurable occasion comes up. There may be moodiness, plus at least 2 of these 4 symptoms; oversleeping, overeating, extreme fatigue and rejection sensitivity.

Premenstrual Syndrome – seems to be related to depression in some people, with symptoms of irritability, nervousness, sadness, low energy, and physical symptoms of body aches and bloating presenting themselves prior to a woman’s menstrual period.

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