Depression Symptoms, Causes and Effects
Depression is likely to strike many people to some degree in their lifetime. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9.1 percent of people reported current major or minor depression. If you or someone you know is depressed, it can cause a marked drop in interest in pursuing life to the fullest, and can, unfortunately, drive a person to attempt suicide if left untreated. Help is available; call our hotline at to learn how to break the cycle of depression.
What Are the Types of Depressive Disorders?
Depression isn’t a single disorder, but rather a class of conditions separated by severity and duration. However, common factors exist among all types.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder occurs when the person has feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anger that persist over a period of weeks and interfere with daily life. It can lead to suicide in severe cases.
From the Greek for “poor mood,” dysthymia is characterized by a persistently sad disposition, as though the person is always in a bad mood. The symptoms last longer than with major depression, but they are not as severe.
Atypical depression can be hard to diagnose and it often lasts for years. Some of the common symptoms of depression, such as decreased appetite, are reversed; the person may have cravings for chocolates or sweets.
Bipolar or Manic Depression
Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling between depressive periods and manic periods in which the person engages in a lot of activity and feels extremely empowered and positive. The time between phases varies from person to person.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD often strikes people during the winter months. A lack of sunlight, exercise, and fresh air causes irritability and lethargy in people who suffer SAD.
Postpartum depression occurs often with women who have recently given birth. The time of onset varies; it can occur as early as three months or as late as a year after delivery. It is moderate to severe.
Patients who suffer psychotic depression exhibit psychotic symptoms along with the depression, such as delusions or hallucinations. The hallucinations can affect any or all of the senses. Usually, the delusions involve feelings of unwarranted guilt or inadequacy.
What Causes Depression?
Many potential causes for depression exist. It can be genetic, meaning the patient has a family history of depression. Personal trauma and sources of stress, such as a failed relationship or a lost job, can also cause depression. Social isolation as the result of conflict with family and friends can be a contributory factor, and certain medications, such as high blood pressure medication, have depression listed as a possible side effect.
What Are the Signs of Depression?
If you notice that you or someone you know seems to be lethargic, socially withdrawn, or has declining physical health, depression may be present. There are several physical and emotional symptoms to look for when determining whether a person has clinical depression, but you should always seek an official diagnosis before making a decision.
Emotional Symptoms of Depression
The emotional symptoms of depression potentially include the following:
- Withdrawal from socializing
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies
- Constant irritability or sadness
- Constant pessimism
- Feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing
Physical Symptoms of Depression
Depression doesn’t just affect the mind; it also affects the body. Some of the physical effects include erratic sleep habits, loss of appetite (or increased appetite with atypical depression), constant fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, and back pain. It’s easy to dismiss these symptoms as stemming from another condition, but they are often because of depression.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Depression
In the short-term, depression is likely to cause loss of appetite, weight loss, and other physical symptoms. If you develop insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much), you will be fatigued and lethargic. In the long term, you can experience malnutrition from not eating enough or become obese from eating too much. You can also experience a drop in short-term memory, finding it easier to forget things. Long-term depression can also lead to suicide; EverydayHealth states that over 66 percent of suicides have depression as a factor.
Is There a Test or Self-Assessment I Can Do?
A myriad of tests exists online to determine whether you may be depressed. Many of them ask the same questions: “Have you felt sad or angry at nothing in particular for more than X amount of time?” “Have you lost interest in normal activities?” “Have you lost interest in socializing?” Try to take a test from an official depression treatment organization or government website. Also note that even if the test says you’re depressed, you should seek an official diagnosis to confirm it is clinical depression. Psychological self-diagnosis is a risky venture at best, but with official evaluation, you can get proper treatment and medication.
Depression Medication: Antidepressant Drug Options
You have a variety of choices for antidepressants. Some of the most common are SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These help the brain to regulate the release of serotonin and dopamine; these are brain chemicals thought to be responsible for creating feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Common brand names are Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.
Antidepressants: Possible Options
SSRIs aren’t the only type of antidepressant. Some older types that are still used are MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), tetracyclics, and tricyclics. If SSRIs prove ineffective, you will likely be prescribed an MAOI or other medication, such as Marplan, Nardil, or Emsam. These drugs can have harmful side effects.
Medication Side Effects
The side effects of antidepressants might cover a wide range of symptoms, some of which include:
- Dry mouth
- Vision problems
Antidepressant Drug Addiction, Dependence and Withdrawal
If someone becomes dependent on antidepressants, addiction is a possibility. Abuse of antidepressants may not lead directly to death, but it can and will have adverse effects on the brain’s chemical balance, as well as the heart and respiratory system. Withdrawal, when weaning off the antidepressants, can send someone spiraling back into depression.
It’s possible to overdose on antidepressants. There are several symptoms associated with overdose, such as uncontrollable shaking of the hands, lack of fine motor function, double vision, seizures, and coma. If these symptoms are present in someone you know, call your local Poison Control Center or 911 immediately.
Dual Diagnosis: Addiction and Depression
Drug addiction and depression often go hand in hand. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20 percent of people with depression or similar mood disorders also have a problem with substance abuse. The staff at drug rehab facilities is therefore trained to help treat depression as well as drug addiction because the two disorders are often co-morbid.
Getting Help for Someone Who Is Depressed
It’s important to intervene if you notice someone is depressed. The more time the person spends depressed, the harder it can be for them to get out of it. Luckily, there are ample resources available. If you or someone you know is depressed, start by talking to a physician, who will then perform an examination and possibly refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist. The mental health professional will start by talking to you and asking various questions to determine how long the depression has been going on, the severity of the symptoms, and whether any medications are being taken that might be worsening the bad moods.
A mixture of antidepressant medication (if cleared with a doctor) and behavioral therapy can help ease depression. Behavioral and cognitive therapies help you to recognize and alter negative self-talk that reinforces depressive thought patterns. Give our operators a call at today to learn more about recovering from depression and reclaiming your life.