Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home. Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include: 

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood. 
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed. 
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting. 
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. 
  • Feeling worthless or guilty. 
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions. Also, medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumour or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression. Several factors can play a role in depression: 

Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 per cent chance of having the illness sometime in life. Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression. Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression. Medication: Brain chemistry may contribute to an individual’s depression and may factor into their treatment.

For this reason, antidepressants might be prescribed to help modify one’s brain chemistry. These medications are not sedatives, “uppers” or tranquillizers. They are not habit-forming. Generally, antidepressant medications have no stimulating effect on people not experiencing depression. Psychiatrists usually recommend that patients continue to take medication for six or more months after symptoms have improved. Longer-term maintenance treatment may be suggested to decrease the risk of future episodes for certain people at high risk.

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is sometimes used alone for treatment of mild depression; for moderate to severe depression, psychotherapy is often used in along with antidepressant medications. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in treating depression. CBT is a form of therapy focused on the present and problem-solving. CBT helps a person to recognize distorted thinking and then change behaviours and thinking. Electroconvulsive therapy(ECT)is a medical treatment most commonly used for patients severe major depression or bipolar disorder who have not responded to other treatments.

It involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anaesthesia. A patient typically receives ECT two to three times a week for a total of six to 12 treatments. ECT has been used since the 1940s, and many years of research have led to major improvements. It is usually managed by a team of trained medical professionals including a psychiatrist, an anesthesiologist and a nurse or physician assistant. There are a number of things people can do to help reduce the symptoms of depression. For many people, regular exercise helps create a positive feeling and improve mood. Getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis, eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol (a depressant) can also help reduce symptoms of depression.

Submitted by “Saba Shah”