Friday, January 25, 2013

Explainer: What is Depression?

by Dr Philip Batterham, Research Fellow, Centre for Mental Health Research at Australian National University; Amelia Gulliver, PHD Candidate & Research Assistant at Centre for Mental Health Research at Australian National University; and Dr Lou Farrer, Postdoctoral Research Fellow & Registered Psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Research at Australian National University, The Conversation: https://theconversation.edu.au

English: Human Experiences, depression/loss of...
Human Experiences, depression (Wikipedia)
Many people know what it’s like to feel sad or down from time to time.

We can experience negative emotions due to many things - a bad day at work, a relationship break-up, a sad film, or just getting out of bed on the “wrong side”.

Sometimes we even say that we’re feeling a bit “depressed”. But what does that mean, and how can we tell when it’s more than just a feeling?

Depression is more than the experience of sadness or stress.

A depressive episode is defined as a period of two weeks or longer where the individual experiences persistent feelings of sadness or loss of pleasure, coupled with a range of other physical and psychological symptoms including fatigue, changes in sleep or appetite, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating or thoughts of death.

To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, individuals must experience at least one depressive episode that disrupts their work, social or home life.

Depression is common in the community, with 12% of Australians experiencing major depressive disorder in their lifetime. More than 650,000 Australians have this experience in any 12-month period.

Because it’s highly prevalent and can be significantly disabling, the World Health Organization reports that depression is the third highest cause of disease burden worldwide, with a greater burden on the community than heart disease. There are also high levels of overlap between depression and other common mental disorders, including anxiety and substance use disorders.

Unfortunately, only 35% of people with symptoms of mental health problems seek help. This may be because of difficulties identifying depression in the community due to a lack of knowledge or accessing care, and stigmatising attitudes towards depression.

Depression prevention programs that provide accessible treatments, increase knowledge and change negative attitudes are an important way to increase access to treatment and reduce the burden of depression.


Causes and risk factors

There’s generally no single reason why an individual becomes depressed. There’s a constellation of risk factors, including physiological, genetic, psychological, social and demographic influences.

Biological risk factors include having a family history of depression, suffering a long-term physical illness or injury, experiencing chronic pain, using illicit drugs or certain prescription medications, chronic sleep problems, or having a baby. Having experienced depression in the past is a risk factor for a further depressive episode.

Psychological risk factors for depression include having low self-esteem, or having a tendency to be self-critical. Demographic and social influences include being female (women are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression than men), stressful life events (such as relationship conflict or caring for someone with an illness), experiencing a difficult or abusive childhood, or being unemployed.

People differ greatly in the amount or type of risk factors they’re exposed to or experience. And having several risk factors alone is not enough to trigger depression.

A combination of risk factors and the experience of stressful or adverse life events may prompt the onset of depression. The greater the number of risk factors that a person experiences, the more vulnerable they are to developing depression when stressful life events occur.

In contrast, those exposed to fewer risk factors are somewhat buffered, and may only develop depression when exposed to extreme levels of environmental stress.

To read further, go to: https://theconversation.edu.au/explainer-what-is-depression-11447
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