Depression seems to be a very common issue in our world today. More than 17 million Americans experience the disease every year. But what is it really, and what constitutes someone being truly depressed versus just “down in the dumps?”

According to PsychCentral, a leading web provider of psychology information, depression is when someone has “a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities consistently for at least a 2 week period.” But depression is not just a severe case of the blues. Depression can have such severe side effects as inability to sleep or eat, (or the polar opposite, in which case one oversleeps or overeats), thoughts of death or wanting to die, or feeling worthless.

Depression can be one or more factors, oftentimes a combination of the following: environmental factors (such as abuse, a tragic event, etc), chemical factors (an imbalance in the brain, which can tie in with genetics), or genetic factors (when someone’s heredity influences their likelihood to have a certain disease).

There are many ways to combat depression, including psychotherapy, light therapy, and medication. Light therapy, in which a light is shone onto the patient, is usually employed when SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is diagnosed. Psychotherapy, or counseling, can help a depressed person by having them talk through their issues. Finally, medication is a way of stabilizing moods or helping with chemically-imbalanced individuals.

In chemically imbalanced people who suffer from depression, they often experience reduced levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter found in the brain) and/or norepinephrine (another neurotransmitter). Medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac), the most commonly prescribed antidepressant for adolescents, are known as SSRIs—Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, meaning that they raise the amount of serotonin. SSRIs are the most common class of prescribed antidepressants.

While there are certainly many positive effects of medication, such as the benefit of stabilizing moods and improving lives, there are also many adverse as well, including most commonly: insomnia, yawning, agitation, or dermatologic reactions (skin irritation). While mild, these side effects should always be taken into consideration.

I myself find the fact that medication can stabilize our moods so completely is fascinating. While depression is certainly a terrible disease, it is a peculiar one. Although there is a stigma against depression, awareness should be raised. 17 MILLION Americans will suffer from depression in 2015 alone.

So, finally, how can we identify depression, in both ourselves or friends and family members?

First, consider the person’s behavior over the last few months. Have they been acting strangely? Have they been making reckless decisions, saying unusual things, or seeming helpless or hopeless? You should let them know you care about them. Secondly, tell them that they’re not in this alone. Find an article or resource to better equip yourself on the topic. Next, follow up. Stay in contact with them.

This entry was written by Eden K. and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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