What are the symptoms?
Depression can cause different symptoms in different people, and
they may be hard to notice at first. For example, a child may seem
grouchy and irritable. An older adult may be forgetful. If you think
a loved one is depressed, learn more about what symptoms to look
for, and urge the person to get help if needed.
People who are depressed may:
- Think and speak more slowly than
- Have trouble concentrating,
remembering and making decisions
- Display changes in their eating
and sleeping habits
- Lose interest in things they
enjoyed before they were depressed
- Have feelings of guilt and
hopelessness, wondering if life is worth living
- Think a lot about death or
- Complain about problems that
donít have a physical cause
All of these symptoms can cause a
problem with your quality of life. If you have had a few of these
symptoms for at least 2 weeks, talk to your doctor. You may have
depression that requires treatment. Depression may give one or more
of these symptoms:
mood level or sadness
Lack of joy or interest in activities that
were joyful before
Feel of guilt of something without any
substantial reason to feel so
Slowness in the thought process
Slowness in interpreting sensorial stimuli
Slowness of digestion or other internal
physical processes, and symptoms caused by
this slowness, for example inflated stomach,
constipation or difficulties by urination
Slow physical reactions
Depression can be a mild disease that only causes some annoyance in
the daily life, but can also get very serious and make a person
totally unable to work and unable to participate in social life. By
depression of some severity, there is also a greater risk of
Depression can occur in all age classes. In teenagers lack of
interest in school work, withdrawal from social life and difficult
mood can be signs of depression.
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES THAT PRODUCE THE SYMPTOMS
By depression there is a decreased amount of neurotransmitters in
parts of the central nervous system, mainly deficiency of serotonin,
but also to some extend of noradrenalin, acetylcholine, dopamine or
gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA), or the nerve cells do not react
properly by stimulation from neurotransmitters. A neurotransmitter
is a signal substance that transmits the nerve signal through the
junctions between two nerve cells.
Serotonin and noradrenalin cause nerve cells to send impulses along
to other nerve cells, and thus increase the activity in the brain.
Deficiency of these substances causes slowness in parts of the
brain, and that again causes the depressive symptoms.
The role of GABA is the opposite, namely to slow down some nerve
impulses, mainly those causing anxiety and panic response. Lack of
GABA causes higher anxiety and easier panic response. Yet, lack of
this transmitter also seems to cause depressive symptoms. This is
because a too high activity in some brain processes may slow down
There are many causes and subtypes of depression with different
physiological mechanisms involved.
TYPES OF DEPRESSION
Depression is often divided into subtypes according to exhibited
1. Mono-polar depression and dysthymic disorder
By mono-polar depression there are pure depressive symptoms. Mild
cases of mono-polar disorder that do not affect a persons ability to
work and to participate in social activities are often called
2. Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disease) and cyclothymic
In this condition there are periods with symptoms of depression -
the depressive phase, alternating with periods of elevated mood
level with increased mental and physical activity - the manic phase.
In the manic phase, the affected person also sleeps poorly and has
concentration difficulties. A mild form of this disease is called
3. Manic disorder
This condition is characterized by abnormally elevated mood, by
unrealistic optimism, by lack of sleep and by hyperactive behaviour.
Many psychiatrists think that this disorder is simply the same
disease as bipolar disorder where the depressive face has not yet
4. Depression with mainly physical symptoms
Sometimes the physical symptoms of depression are alone or dominant,
as for example: Digestive problems, constipation, difficulties with
urination, slow response to sensorial stimuli or slow physical
CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
Two or more factors can have an effect simultaneously to cause
depression. Depression can be an independent disease, or a part of
other disease. Depression is also divided into different subtypes
according to cause.
1. Reactive depression
This disease is simply a result from psychological stress, physical
struggle or mental straining without proper rest or sleep over a
long time period. The straining will simply wear out the nervous
system or deplete the organism from nutrient necessary for the
nervous system to work properly.
2. Endogenous depression
When there has not been any period of stress, straining or lack of
rest that can explain the condition, the condition is often called
endogenous depression. Inheritance is thought to be a part of the
3. Depression by physical disease
Depression or depressive symptoms may be a symptom of physical
disease. This is perhaps the most common cause of depression.
Diseases often associated with depression are: Heart disease,
Parkinson's disease, stroke, hypertension or Cushing's syndrome.
Mononucleosis or flu may trigger depression that continues after the
infection has gone. By lack of thyroid hormones,
hypothyroidism, the metabolism in the whole body is slowed down,
including the production of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Therefore depression is an important symptom of hypothyroidism.
4. Depressive symptoms as a consequence of unsound lifestyle
A general unsound lifestyle with too less exercise, too much of
stimulants like alcohol, coffee or tea, too less of important
nutrient and too much of sugar and fat may give depressive symptoms,
as well as physical problems.
5. Postnatal depression
Women will often have a period of depression after pregnancy and
berth of the baby Pregnancy and berth is physically and mentally
exhausting, and may drain the body for nutrient. This in turn can
cause depressive symptoms
6. Seasonal affective disorder
Depression can occur in cold and dark periods of the year and go
away in warm and light periods. Light stimulates brain activity, and
lack of light is a causative factor.
TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION
Serious or prolonged depression is often treated with
anti-depressive medication. Medicines used against depression
generally increase the level of neurotransmitters like serotonin in
the central nervous system, or they mimic the neurotransmitters.
The medications mostly used today increase the serotonin
concentration by decreasing the removal of serotonin from the space
around nerve cells. Examples of this medication type are: Fluoxetine
(Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro,
Celexa), sentraline (zoloft).
By bipolar disorder in the manic face, heavy tranquilizers (neuroleptica)
are used to stop the manic symptoms. By bipolar disorder, lithium
salts are sometimes used to stabilize the condition, and prevent new
outbreak of depressive or manic faces.
Psychotherapy is sometimes used by depression, usually in
combination with medication.
Sometimes serious depression is treated by applying electric shock
through the head, electroconvulsive therapy. The shock induces
epileptic eruption of nerve signals through the brain and this gives
cramps throughout the body. The cramps are alleviated or stopped by
applying anaesthesia before the electroshock. This form of treatment
is controversial, since it can cause memory loss and is suspected of
causing brain damage. The possibility of brain damage is however
denied by most psychiatrists.
By seasonal depression, light therapy maybe useful.
Adjustment of lifestyle should always be considered by depression or
depressive symptoms. Lifestyle measures can sometimes be enough to
cure depressive symptoms before a serious depression develop.
Lifestyle adjustments can be:
- To slow down a stressful life with too much work or activities.
- Enough rest and sleep.
- A good diet with enough of necessary nutrients.
- Some physical exercise.
- Supplement of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, lecithin, amino
acids and essential fatty acids.
- Stimulants like coffee or tea may help against depressive feelings
in moderate amount. However, if you are a heavy user of these
stimulants, you should cut down on your consumption.
There exist nutritional products in the marked to help against
depressive symptoms. These contain ingredients that the brain uses
as building blocks for neurotransmitters, for example amino acids
and lecithin. They also often contain vitamins and minerals that the
brain uses as tools to produce neurotransmitters, especially vitamin
Supplements may further contain herbal extracts that trigger higher
brain activity much like anti-depressive medications, but may have
fewer side effects.