Depression, which in the literal sense of the word describes a slump or an aversion to activity, finds use in the description of various phenomena. The fluidity of diction connotes its usage in mental health, Biology, Earth science and Economics where it defines important patterns in respective fields. The form of depression that more often than not, leads to existential crises among individuals is one defined in the field of mental health.
In mental health, Depression is defined as a state of low mood which can have a significant impact on an individual’s general wellbeing. It may significantly define a person’s thought processes, motivation and behaviors in a way that perpetuates a chronic inability to enjoy a normal and happy life.
The occasional low mood which inadvertently met as a reaction to certain life events may be normal, but its persistence over time to the point where it affects quality of life puts it in the confines of what is describes poor mental health. Depression may present as symptoms of other diseases or may be induced by specific medical treatments.
Research on depression over time has posited and described some of the core factors of depression. These may include (but are not limited to):
- Psychiatric conditions:
Depression is a common symptom in many psychiatric illnesses. Bipolar disorder which swings on both sides of the symptoms’ pendulum can show symptoms of elevated mood, but also has significant bouts characterized by depressive states. Mood disorders such as major depressive disorder and its milder form called dysthymia are primarily characterized by prolonged depressive states. Border line personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are also characterized by major depressive states.
- Non psychiatric illnesses:
A low mood can be due many different kinds of illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, chronic pain, diabetes and hypothyroidism.
- Substance abuse:
Alcoholism can cause or worsen existing depression. Other substances that cause depression may include cocaine, amphetamines, inhalants, hallucinogens, opioids.
- Pharmacotherapy induced depression:
Healthcare can also lead to depressive states. Medications associated with depression include hormonal agents, anti-migraine medication, anticonvulsants and beta-blockers.
- Personality traits:
There are personality traits like Neuroticism that make development of longer term depressive states more likely.
- Life events:
Childhood life events that are filled with adversity and turmoil can traumatize and leave indelible marks in form of feelings that lead to perpetual depression in adulthood. These may include neglect, sexual and physical abuse. When the bad thoughts that appear in memories are triggered and then build up, they offset low mood that persist for long periods if attempts to avert the bad thoughts aren’t made. Also financial difficulties, menopause, medical conditions, stress are some of the life events that lead to depressive states.
Diagnosis of depression is usually through patient health questionnaires with scales pegged to individual responses, these test use responses to personal questions that are directed towards participant. They also give direction towards conclusive diagnosis and also determine severity of condition.
Most depressive states are a normal response to life events, side effects of medication or other illnesses and may not require professional treatment. Depressive states that persist for longer and have debilitating effects on quality of life may benefit from medication following thorough diagnosis that may lead to discovery of a mental illness or any other illness that may present with depression as a symptom. Anti-depressant medication is discouraged in mild depression due to poor risk-benefit ratio.
Engagement in physical exercise and yoga activities has shown benefit in elevating mood in depressive states.
Counseling that is driven toward reminiscence of fond memories and encouraging positive thinking has shown some positive benefits to improve mental health.