What is depression?
Everyone knows it, when you have a phase in life, in which you can't look forward to anything, everything seems very dull and dreary to you and you are simply "depressed". The weather or even personal experiences and events can be a reason for this. The term depression is often used to describe everyday fluctuations in our state of mind. However, in the medical sense, depression is much more than a low, dejection or listlessness. Anyone can experience such a phase at one time or another.
From a medical-therapeutic point of view, depression is a serious illness. Depression as an illness affects the thinking, feeling and acting of the person affected. The bodily functions can be disturbed and considerable suffering can be caused. People suffering from depression can rarely get out of their depression and depressed mood, listlessness and negative thoughts on their own. Therapy and medical treatment are often necessary.
The everyday and colloquial use of the term depression can be misleading. If sufferers or even relatives assume that the effects of depression are an understandable reaction to existing life problems and not an expression of an illness, then professional help is often not sought. However, depression, like any other illness, requires treatment. There are also various symptoms and signs associated with depression.
Causes of depression
Depression is usually associated with various causes. Physical and genetic influences interact with psychological and psychosocial triggers, and because of this complexity, there is no such thing as a typical depression.
Depression can result from physical triggers. In depression, brain metabolism is out of balance. Serotonin and norepinephrine are no longer present in the optimal concentration and thus the impulses between the brain cells can no longer be transmitted properly. This affects the feelings and thoughts of the affected person.
In addition, other diseases can also be a cause of depression. Diseases such as Parkinson's or even tumors and the like can cause depression. However, it is not yet clear whether these diseases cause depression or vice versa.
Chronic stress or acute psychological trauma cause increased cortisol levels. This elevated stress hormone concentration can cause behavioral changes that are also typical of depression.
Studies have also shown that approximately one-third of all people affected by depression suffered from stressful and acute life circumstances before the onset of the disease. The risk of depression is increased by drastic events such as the death of a relative.
Susceptibility to depression can also be increased by personal characteristics such as perfectionism, extreme performance orientation or a high sense of responsibility.
Typical symptoms of depression
There are three main typical symptoms of depression:
First is the depressed mood. Affected persons suffer from deep dejection and the depressive mood is almost continuously present, strongly pronounced and lasts for at least two weeks.
Furthermore, it is the inner emptiness and loss of interest. Affected persons often do not feel joy or other emotions. One feels empty and emotionally dead. Interest in social contacts and other activities diminishes, and attempts at distraction and encouragement are unsuccessful. Some lose the will to live and everything seems hopeless.
And last but not least, listlessness and fatigue. Everyday tasks become difficult and even impossible to accomplish. One feels constantly exhausted, both physically and mentally. Some sufferers can hardly get out of bed and fatigue becomes the norm.
Typical side symptoms of depression are sometimes:
Feelings of guilt and self-reproach
Sleep disturbances or extreme need for sleep
Loss of sexual interest
Impaired concentration and attention
Strong restlessness and inner agitation
Very often, depression also leads to physical symptoms in sufferers that have no identifiable organic cause. Such symptoms are referred to as somatic. Typical are sometimes:
Headaches and back pain
Rarely also stronger appetite
Loss of appetite
Stomach and intestinal problems
In severe depression, the sufferer's negative thoughts can become so strong that suicidal thoughts arise. Sometimes the risk of suicide is very high in some sufferers. About 10% to 15% of patients die from a suicide attempt.
In such a case it is very important to seek help immediately! If suicidal thoughts arise, help should be sought without hesitation. Such thoughts are a sign of illness, which can be overcome with professional help in any case. In Switzerland you can contact the Dargebotene Hand directly and anonymously and get help (Tel: 143).
According to current scientific knowledge, a hereditary predisposition contributes significantly to the development of depression. Depressions occur more frequently in families. The risk of developing depression if first-degree relatives are affected is about 15%. In the case of identical twins, the risk of developing depression increases to at least 50%.
What can be done about depression?
There are various treatment options for depression. These include psychotherapies, medications and general measures.
Psychotherapeutic treatments usually consist of intensive discussions and behavioral exercises. The most commonly used method is cognitive behavioral therapy. In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, other methods that are covered by statutory health insurance include depth psychology-based psychotherapy, analytical psychotherapy and systematic therapy. At WePractice, we refer you to experienced therapists who can help you with your depression: Overview therapists.
You can find a suitable psychotherapist either through the recommendation of your family doctor or by contacting a psychotherapeutic practice directly for advice. It is important for the success of a therapy that you can rely on the psychotherapist and that you have a trusting relationship. The first appointments are anyway there to find out whether you are really suited to each other.
Medication is only considered in the treatment of depression when the complaints and symptoms are very strong and pronounced. Medication is used especially in cases of suicidal thoughts or self-harm. In cases of mild depression, however, medication is completely inadvisable and is also ineffective for the time being.
What can I do myself?
The most important step, as described above, is to see a doctor. However, you can also do something yourself to counteract depression and alleviate the illness. Sports and exercise are important factors. It does not have to be a directly high-performance sport, it is enough already a small walk in the fresh air, in order to provide a free head. Other activities, such as calling a friend or going on a date, can also help and be small successes. Furthermore, it is important to seek support. Whether it is family or friends, support makes the crisis and treatment easier. Sometimes it also helps to exchange ideas with other sufferers. For this purpose, there are various self-help groups that you can join.
Myths about depression
There are many different prejudices and myths about depression. We have compiled the most common myths:
Myth 1: From outsiders, symptoms of depression such as listlessness, joylessness or even dejection are misunderstood as weakness and a lack of willpower. However, these are typical signs.
Myth 2: The belief that medication for depression is addictive is very common. Antidepressants are not addictive, nor do you get "high." However, there is an increased risk of addiction with sleeping pills and tranquilizers. However, these are not the same as antidepressants.
Myth 3: Antidepressants are designed to change the personality of those affected. The drugs affect the functioning of the brain. However, the personality does not change as a result. Only the changes in perception and behavior typical of depression decrease.
Myth 4: Work stress is to blame for depression. Everyday work life is getting faster and the work-life balance is increasingly difficult to achieve and maintain. Therefore, many say that work stress is the reason for depression. However, this connection has not been proven.
Myth 5: The belief that more and more people are becoming depressed is widespread. However, depression has always existed and the impression that there are more and more sufferers every year is easy to explain. Depression is now also called by its name and not hidden behind other terms. People are talking more openly about this illness and more and more sufferers are seeking professional help. Furthermore, the diagnosis of the disease is also faster than 20 years ago.