Depressions - still a taboo subject?
Depres¬≠si¬≠ons ‚Äď still a taboo subject?

At the moment, it is estima¬≠ted that around 5 % of the popula¬≠tion are suffe¬≠ring from depres¬≠sion. The risk of becoming depres¬≠sed during one‚Äôs lifetime is as high as a third. And yet, this subject is rarely discus¬≠sed, as many of those affec¬≠ted by it never confide in anyone, for fear of stigma¬≠tis¬≠a¬≠tion. There are also frequent errors in judge¬≠ment on the part of doctors. A lot of psych¬≠ia¬≠tric exper¬≠tise is requi¬≠red in order to correctly catego¬≠rize symptoms. The profes¬≠sio¬≠nally accre¬≠di¬≠ted Online Self-Assess¬≠ment develo¬≠ped by the psych¬≠ia¬≠trist Ivan K. Goldberg can offer a first point of reference for deter¬≠mi¬≠ning how you are affec¬≠ted by depres¬≠sion. However, this is not a substi¬≠tute for a profes¬≠sio¬≠nal, medical diagno¬≠sis. As a general rule: waiting will not lead to impro¬≠ve¬≠ment, depres¬≠sion generally does not get better on its own.

Fact #1 ‚Äď Defini¬≠tion

Depres­sion is a severe mental illness which absolut­ely must be treated. Depres­sion is descri­bed as a long-term, unipo­lar mood disor­der, with constant feelings of dejec­tion, which do not go away even after positive experi­en­ces. In contrast to this, bipolar disor­der is when manic episo­des occur along­side depres­sive episo­des, with powerful feelings of eupho­ria, a tendency to be overcon­fi­dent, and heigh­tened restless­ness. This pheno­me­non has been the subject of world­wide discus­sions, follo­wing the rapper Kanye West’s candi­dacy for Presi­dent of the US.

Fact #2 ‚Äď Causes

In addition to genetic predis­po­si­tion, there are many possi­ble causes for depres­sion: hormone imbalan­ces, a severe illness, taking certain medica­tion (like corti­sone), trauma­tic experi­en­ces, perso­nal outlook on life, and perso­na­lity struc­ture. Some people are parti­cu­larly vulnerable, while others can cope with many of the afore­men­tio­ned risk factors much better. Last but not least, stress is a signi­fi­cant trigger of depres­sion. It influen­ces our body clock and can inter­fere with neuro­trans­mit­ter activity in the brain.

Fact #3 ‚Äď Forms and Symptoms

‚ÄěI feel empty and worn out. Every¬≠thing hurts,‚Äú Herbert Gr√∂ne¬≠meyer sings in his song ‚ÄėFlugzeuge im Bauch‚Äė (Aeropla¬≠nes in my stomach), and indeed, these words also describe the mental state of people with depres¬≠sion. Dejec¬≠tion, lack of motiva¬≠tion and disin¬≠te¬≠res¬≠ted¬≠ness are the key symptoms of depres¬≠sion. Someti¬≠mes symptoms also include self doubt and feelings of guilt, diffi¬≠culty concen¬≠t¬≠ra¬≠ting and sleeping, inner restless¬≠ness and lack of interest in sex. For some patients, symptoms of depres¬≠sion are predo¬≠mi¬≠nantly physi¬≠cal, which is refer¬≠red to as a somatic syndrome.

Nowadays, we refer to a mild depres¬≠sive episode when at least two key symptoms and two additio¬≠nal symptoms have been occur¬≠ring for at least 14 days. A depres¬≠sion is conside¬≠red to be chronic, when the symptoms persist for two years or longer.

Inciden­tally, men only suffer from depres­sion half as often as women do. They also someti­mes have other symptoms like aggres­si­ve­ness, irrita­bi­lity, and a desire to take risks.

Fact #4 ‚Äď Treat¬≠ment

Depres¬≠sion is now very treata¬≠ble. Depen¬≠ding on the severity, either medical treat¬≠ment or psycho¬≠the¬≠rapy would be advisa¬≠ble. However, the latter is not always covered by health insurance. Today, the most frequently prescri¬≠bed Selec¬≠tive Seroto¬≠nin Reupt¬≠ake Inhibi¬≠tors (SSRI) have signi¬≠fi¬≠cantly fewer side effects than previous approa¬≠ches to treat¬≠ment. They increase the amount of seroto¬≠nin, the so-called ‚Äöhappi¬≠ness hormone‚Äė, in the brain, thus creating an uplif¬≠ting effect. More than half of patients experi¬≠ence a clear impro¬≠ve¬≠ment of their symptoms after 6‚Äď8 weeks.

In severe cases, it can also be useful to treat patients in hospi­tal.

As an alter­na­tive to conven­tio­nal medicine, regular exercise can also help with depres­sion, and the consump­tion of St John’s wort is also conside­red helpful. However, the latter has numerous side effects, and parti­cu­larly women should consume it with caution.

Fact #5 ‚Äď Suicide risk

Depres¬≠sion is one of many undere¬≠sti¬≠ma¬≠ted illnesses, that often lead to suici¬≠dal thoughts. Around 10‚Äď15 % of people suffe¬≠ring from depres¬≠sion die as a result of suicide. This is the case especi¬≠ally with people who take energy-enhan¬≠cing medica¬≠tion, in order to remain profes¬≠sio¬≠nally capable.

First aid is available in Germany from the natio¬≠nal crisis line at 0800 ‚Äď 1110111 and 0800 ‚Äď 1110222. The service is anony¬≠mous, free, and available around the clock. Related self-help groups can be found at