Depression is a mental condition which affects the mood and causes severe sadness, loss of motivation and feeling of hopelessness. It can affect the ability of people to perform their day-to-day tasks and in very severe cases people can feel like life is not worth living.

Although the word depression is sometimes used to denote a state of sadness, depression as a condition is not just a state of being sad, it affects the way the brain thinks and feels and sufferers do not necessarily have control over these.

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Feeling of sadness
  • Anger
  • Having thoughts of ending one’s life
  • Feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Loss of enjoyment and interest
  • Inability to think properly
  • Poor sleep and appetite
  • Reduced desire for sexual activity
  • Unexplained physical symptoms like pain, headaches or problems with digestion

What is the cause of depression?

The cause of depression cannot always be identified, however, it can be linked to the following factors:

  • Adverse childhood experiences. People can develop depression later in life if they were exposed to trauma during their childhood.
  • Family history. The presence of depression in the family can be a risk factor for developing depression.
  • Abnormal brain function. Some parts of the brain affect the mood, when these parts of the brain don’t function properly, this can result in depression.
  • Medical conditions. Having ongoing medical conditions which affect one’s health significantly can predispose to developing depression.
  • Adverse life experiences. Experiencing persistent or repeated bad experiences through the course of one’s life can predispose one to developing depression.
  • Drug misuse. The misuse of illicit drugs or alcohol can predispose one to developing depression.

How is depression treated?

If you identify any of the symptoms of depression in yourself, it is important to seek help from a qualified medical professional. It is usually also helpful to talk to people you know would be supportive and understanding of your situation.

There is a lot of stigma around mental health problems and people often attempt to hide these issues. However, speaking to your doctor could go a long way to helping you recover.

There are a number of measures that can be taken in treating depression, and these are listed below.

  • Counselling. This involves having sessions to express your emotions with a trained counsellor who provides a non-judgemental environment and helps you get through your difficult thoughts.
  • Psychological therapy. This is similar to simple counselling and it involves speaking to a psychological therapists who would often attempt to teach skills to help you cope with your negative thoughts, emotions and feelings.
  • Medication. There are a number of medications available for the treatment of depression, they can also be used to target symptoms such as sleep or appetite problems.

Can depression be cured?

Depression is often a long-term medical condition which can be managed by employing the measures described above. It is quite common for symptoms to recur after initial successful treatment. However with continuous support from medical professionals and loved-ones, it can be kept under control.

How can I help someone with suspected depression?

Quite often, individuals with depression find it difficult to seek help for their symptoms, in fact some are not able to recognize these symptoms in themselves. In that case, if you know someone who might be suffering from depression, you can help by being non-judgemental  towards this person. Recognize that depression is a medical condition and that sufferers need to be able to express their thoughts without being judged or blamed. If a person expresses thoughts about taking their own life, you should take this seriously and if possible, help them access available help and support.