At the moment, it is estimated that around 5 % of the population are suffering from depression. The risk of becoming depressed during one’s lifetime is as high as a third. And yet, this subject is rarely discussed, as many of those affected by it never confide in anyone, for fear of stigmatisation. There are also frequent errors in judgement on the part of doctors. A lot of psychiatric expertise is required in order to correctly categorize symptoms. The professionally accredited Online Self-Assessment developed by the psychiatrist Ivan K. Goldberg can offer a first point of reference for determining how you are affected by depression. However, this is not a substitute for a professional, medical diagnosis. As a general rule: waiting will not lead to improvement, depression generally does not get better on its own.
Fact #1 – Definition
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 – 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 – Forms and Symptoms
„I feel empty and worn out. Everything hurts,“ Herbert Grönemeyer sings in his song ‘Flugzeuge im Bauch‘ (Aeroplanes in my stomach), and indeed, these words also describe the mental state of people with depression. Dejection, lack of motivation and disinterestedness are the key symptoms of depression. Sometimes symptoms also include self doubt and feelings of guilt, difficulty concentrating and sleeping, inner restlessness and lack of interest in sex. For some patients, symptoms of depression are predominantly physical, which is referred to as a somatic syndrome.
Nowadays, we refer to a mild depressive episode when at least two key symptoms and two additional symptoms have been occurring for at least 14 days. A depression is considered 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 – Treatment
Depression is now very treatable. Depending on the severity, either medical treatment or psychotherapy would be advisable. However, the latter is not always covered by health insurance. Today, the most frequently prescribed Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) have significantly fewer side effects than previous approaches to treatment. They increase the amount of serotonin, the so-called ‚happiness hormone‘, in the brain, thus creating an uplifting effect. More than half of patients experience a clear improvement of their symptoms after 6–8 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 – Suicide risk
Depression is one of many underestimated illnesses, that often lead to suicidal thoughts. Around 10–15 % of people suffering from depression die as a result of suicide. This is the case especially with people who take energy-enhancing medication, in order to remain professionally capable.
First aid is available in Germany from the national crisis line at 0800 – 1110111 and 0800 – 1110222. The service is anonymous, free, and available around the clock. Related self-help groups can be found at www.depressionsliga.de.
Source: www.netdoktor.de, www.neurologen-und-psychiater-im-netz.org, www.psychenet.de