Depression: What Is it? What Do We Do About It?

            According to The World Health Organization, more than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. This number only can tell us who has been diagnosed, but it is more than likely that more people than even that suffer from the mental disorder. This disease also affects more women than it does men and technically has no cure; it is treatable with lifestyle changes as well as medications, but, at the end of the day, a person diagnosed with depression is still suffering with a horrible disease. But what is depression? How do we recognize it and how can we prevent it?

            First, there is a difference between “Depression” and “depression”. “Depression” with a capital “D” is a form of a mental disorder that interferes with life that can be treated by seeing a therapist as well as antipsychotic drugs. In contrast, “depression” with a lowercased “d” is a feeling of sadness or being blue that will pass and does not stay for prolonged periods of time.. According to the NIMH, there are several forms of depression. The most commonly known is that of psychotic depression. Others include postpartum depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), bipolar disorder, and major depression. Major depression is episodic in nature, and more than one episode can occur during one person’s lifetime. The overarching idea behind any form of depression is that there is extreme sadness that interferes with daily life and makes it difficult if not impossible to function with daily challenges such as going to sleep, eating, and getting up in the morning.

Depression affects millions of women every day.

            Depression is difficult to recognize, especially if you do not know someone very well who has it. However, signs and symptoms of depression include fatigue and decreased energy, lack of interest in activities that one once liked, as well as difficulty or changes in patterns of sleeping, and extreme aggression. While there are many other symptoms that indicate that a person is suffering from depression, those four symptoms tend to be found in almost everyone who suffers from depression. If you see someone who over a period of time starts to lose interest in something, they are probably not suffering from depression. But if a friend or family member suddenly is not interested in their favorite activity anymore and this loss of interest in accompanied by a series of other symptoms associated with depression, it is important to bring it to their attention and inquire further. Of course, recognize and maintain any boundaries that you and the person may have. If you believe you are suffering from depression, go through a list of symptoms of Depression and see a doctor.

            While there is much known about symptoms of depression, much less is known about its causes. Some women may suffer from depression due to psychological problems they inherit from parents; others may have neurological abnormalities which lead to depression. Others may suffer from it due to traumatic events that occur in one’s lifetime. Some experience traumatic event occurring in a series, and this begins the depression cycle. This not uncommon for people who have depression; it can be challenging to cope with everyday happenings after one traumatic event occurs. An event that would have not otherwise been traumatizing can easily become traumatizing after one traumatic event, adding to the depression and making it nearly impossible to cope with, amplifying feelings and augmenting the process of recovery. Without treatment, depression can easily become a vicious cycle. 

            While depression, in all of its forms, is very scary, Mayo Clinic discusses strategies as to how it can be prevented. These include learning how to cope with stress. Different people cope in different ways, but finding the right method for you is important. Additionally, creating a safety net of friends and family is helpful. While it damages relationships to lean on others as a crutch, having people to whom you can reach out for help is crucial. NCBI has also suggested that having a diet that is nutritious and leading a healthy lifestyle by getting enough exercise can also help to prevent depression. However, depression is not like the common cold which can be prevented by simply washing your hands, not sharing beverages, and making sure you drink plenty of water. Depression primarily needs to be treated like cancer: aggressively and readily.

Let’s help the women around the world by actively combatting depression.

-By Michaela Stevenson