Most of us have felt sad or down, and even depressed at one time or another, but clinical or major depression is a serious medical condition lasting longer than two weeks which affects a person's mind and body.
Also known as clinical depression, unipolar depression and unipolar disorder, major depression is a mood disorder that impacts all aspects of daily living, robbing a person of joy in life. It causes overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness. Anger, moodiness, difficulty concentrating and indecisiveness are other symptoms of depression. A person may have thoughts about death or suicide.
Depression also has physical symptoms. Many people can’t sleep well even though they feel mentally and physically exhausted; or they may sleep and eat excessively. They may have crying spells; unexplained body aches and have loss of interest in activities that used to be pleasurable.
Depression in Women
Depression symptoms may differ by gender. Women are twice as likely to develop depression as men. Women with depression tend to sleep more, eat more (especially carbohydrates) and gain weight. Feelings of inappropriate guilt, worthlessness and anxiousness are more prevalent in women. They are more likely to develop to have seasonal affective disorder, which is caused by lower levels of sunlight during the winter months.
Depression in Men
Men with depression may exhibit irritability, hostility and anger. They may have fatigue and difficulty concentrating, feel stressed and indecisive. Physical symptoms include sexual dysfunction and a slowing-down of physical movements, speech and thought processes. They may drink too much and act recklessly. Men are four times more likely to commit suicide.
Causes of Depression
Although there is no one cause of depression it is thought to result from a combination of biochemical, hormonal, genetic, psychological, social factors and even sleep abnormalities. Depression can begin as the result of a loss, such as a job loss or the death of a friend or family member, but a stressful life event does not cause depression.
Aches and pains are what may bring a person to the doctor, but clinical depression cannot be diagnosed through a lab test. A physician can perform tests for other physical conditions, such as hypothyroidism which can cause similar symptoms. It’s important to get diagnosed because depression does not improve on its own. It can even lead to heart disease and other serious medical conditions due to chemical changes in the body.
Depression is treatable through a combination of antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. There are several classes of medications available, depending on the type of depression. For severe cases that don’t respond to medication therapy, Alegent Creighton Health offers Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy. TMS is a newer, noninvasive technology that uses magnetic fields to stimulate areas in the brain that are thought to control mood. These areas are underactive in patients with severe depression.