Clinical Depression, also known as major depression, is a condition characterized by a constant sense of hopelessness and despair. A person with this condition may find it difficult to work, study, sleep or even have a good time with friends and enjoy different activities. Some people experience it only once in their lifetime while in others it is recurrent. It may occur from one generation to the next in some families although it may also affect individuals from families that do not have any history of the illness.
People with this condition tend to have a depressed mood especially in the morning. A person may lose interest in normal activities and relationships, a condition that may occur daily for at least two weeks. The other symptoms include the following;
- Fatigue or energy loss nearly everyday
- A constant feeling of worthlessness or guilt
- Impaired concentration and indecisiveness
- Insomnia (inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
- Recurring suicidal thoughts
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
People at Risk :
Statistics have shown that between 20%-25% of adults may suffer an episode of clinical depression at some point in their lifetime. It is prevalent among the older adults, teens and children. In most cases it goes undiagnosed and hence untreated. Findings have also shown that almost twice as many women as men suffer from the condition. This can be attributed to the hormonal changes that occur during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage as well as menopause. Other contributing factors include increased stress at home or workplace, balancing family life with career, single parenthood, as well as caring for an ageing parent.
Signs of Clinical Depression in Men:
This condition is significantly under-reported as most men are less likely to seek help or even talk about their experience. Men who suffer from it are easily irritated and angered. Some may indulge in substance abuse, become violent or harbor suicidal or homicidal thoughts.
Major Causes of Clinical Depression:
- Grief from the lose of a loved one through separation, divorce or death
- Social separation or deprivation
- Major life changes like graduation, job change, moving or retirement
- Relationship conflicts either with a significant other or a superior
- Emotional, physical or sexual abuse
When a patient with this condition visits a health professional, a thorough medical evaluation is performed. The individual may be asked questions about his/her personal and family psychiatric history. The patient might also be required to complete a depression screening test. Blood tests, X-rays and other laboratory tests can not be used to diagnose this condition. A doctor may however run blood tests so as to help in detecting other medical problems that may have similar symptoms. Brain SPECT function imaging is now being utilized to evaluate types of depression, co-morbidities and effectiveness of medications.
Prevention and Treatment:
Clinical depression is a serious but treatable illness. For instance, antidepressant medication may be used to control the symptoms. Psychotherapy or talk therapy is also recommended as it helps the patient to address his/her emotional state. Other medications may be added to the antidepressants so as to boost their effectiveness. In case the drugs are ineffective or the symptoms are severe, electroconvulsive therapy or shock therapy can be administered.
More recently intravenous Ketamine infusion has started to be used for those whose depression has become chronic and not responsive to antidepressant medications.
A person who has had an episode of this condition is at a higher risk or having another attack. One should therefore be aware of the triggers and take the prescribed medication to avoid relapse. It is important to know the symptoms and talk to the doctor early enough. Physical exercise and healthy eating are also very important.
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