Yes, depression is a real illness. Many people will dispute this fact because everyone gets upset from time to time.  So the answer is still yes, depression is very real.  Clinical depression has physical causes that can and should be treated once a diagnosis is made. Medical professionals agree that at some point in their lives, about 10% of Americans will experience some level of depression. Sometimes, it is a one time thing and sometimes it is recurring throughout the lifetime of the patient.

Patients diagnosed with depression have a 50% chance of experiencing recurring episodes of depression, and generally if left untreated - or treated incorrectly - the recurrences will be worse than the initial episode. Naturally, this also means that once a second episode occurs, a third is a large possibility.

Depression involves physical, emotional and mental states of a person suffering from the condition. It’s much more than sadness that will eventually go away on its own. The patient usually has little control over their ability to come out of an episode and time is often the best medicine when used in conjunction with a treatment plan from a physician. There are many variations of depression, and if left untreated the condition will undoubtedly worsen.

Three main types of depression are major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and dysthymic disorder.

Major depression affects a patient’s ability to function normally as a member of society. Recurrence is very common with this variety of depression.

Dysthymia is less severe than major depression; however it does have the same symptoms on a bit less intensive scale. People with Dysthymia are generally still able to function, although their activities and mental, emotional and physical states will be affected in much the same way. It is possible for Dysthymia to develop into major depression at some point and recurrence is always a possibility.

Bipolar disorder is extremely volatile. Patients with Bipolar disorder may experience drastic and rapid mood changes from minute to minute. These are known as manic episodes.  A manic person may be hyper and excited one minute and extremely reclusive the next, avoiding all people and activities.  This type of cycle is standard with all types of depression, but it is much more noticeable with Bipolar Disorder.  Recurrence is almost guaranteed with Bipolar Disorder.
Depression is an illness, and there are very real symptoms. Let’s review them:

  1. Sadness that lasts more than a few days, or that keeps returning
  2. Unexplained weepiness or crying spells
  3. Major changes in sleeping habits or appetite
  4. Emotional instability including anger, irritability, worrying, anxiety
  5. Feeling of indifference or increased pessimism
  6. Lost of energy, increased lethargy and no desire to do anything
  7. Feelings of unexplained guilt
  8. General sense of worthlessness
  9. Inability to make a decision rationally, if at all
  10. Lack of pleasure from hobbies or activities
  11. Refusal to be social
  12. Undiagnosed physical problems and pain
  13. Feeling of exhaustion for no apparent physical reason
  14. Suicidal thoughts or obsession with thoughts of death and dying

There is hope for people suffering from depression!  There are many treatment options including counseling or psychotherapy, medications (antidepressants) and even a combined regimen of both medication and therapy. In severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and light therapy can be considered.  More information will be provided later on about treatment options.

How Does Depression Affect Physical Health?

Depression is a physically and socially debilitating condition. It restricts your body from doing normal day-to-day activities, jeopardizes your work, and negatively affects how you deal with others.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 11.6 million Americans are suffering from clinical depression. While some willingly undergo robust treatment, other individuals still find it very hard to identify early symptoms of this disorder.

According to the latest research findings, early symptoms of depression should be dealt with immediately and accorded with appropriate treatment. Otherwise, major depression sets in and may result in cardiovascular complications.

We previously explored the definition and possible symptoms of depression.  Before we look at how depression affects your body physiologically or physically, however, let us first review the various symptoms manifested by people and their relative causes to fully delineate the path of its origin and occurrence from a more clinical viewpoint.

Again, depression is a psychoneurotic illness where patients manifest some or all of the following symptoms: sadness, sudden decrease or increase in appetite, concentration difficulty, inactivity and hyperactivity (manic depression), a feeling of rejection, and ideas of committing suicide.

These and other symptoms may be an indication of psychological degeneration and may take a toll on your physical well-being.

To understand better how depression and its possible adverse effects work in the human body, it is important to know the scientific and physiological basis of this rather unusual condition.

Physiology of Depression and its Causes

Clinical depression is basically a neurological condition. It is caused by an imbalance of hormones in the body, which are in this case, produced by the brain itself.

Hormones are small biologically active molecules that direct the function of other organs. They are responsible for the direct physiological activity and characteristic behavior of a person through various social and environmental circumstances.

Imbalance in the hormone levels in blood serum can cause a massive effect on your state of emotional health. This sudden increase or decrease of these chemical messengers may cause you to become overly excited over any situation (manic depression) or to feel very low to the point of becoming apathetic and choosing not to respond to your everyday needs.

Some evidence points to a genetic cause of depressive illness, although this is not confirmed because much of the evidence of genetic linkage is not fully substantiated.

Most individuals who manifest a genetic predisposition do not outwardly exhibit such illness. Anyone can develop this condition if triggered by appropriate environmental factors.

Physical Effects of Depression

The extent of physical effects of depression depends on the severity of the depression you are experiencing. For people with mild forms of depression (Dysthymia), it may last for months or even years and individuals who do not get proper and individualized medical treatment may progress into severe depression or a psychotic state.

Bipolar depression experiences a roller-coaster symptom of excitement and loneliness. They may experience a rapid mood swings from lonely to manic attacks. This major form of depression shows a wide-range of full-blown emotional imbalances which interfere with normal activities such as work, study, family affairs and social responsibility.

Since this condition is basically a neurological problem, it may spin off a host of other mental and physical problems which may make it difficult to perform your usual activities. Pathologically apathetic individuals tend to avoid their friends and colleagues, which respond in kind with irritable moods and expressions.

Individuals with this condition tend to be very worrisome and exhaust themselves into thinking that other people do not care about their concerns or problems. Some may experience palpitations which could lead to a major cardiovascular disease.

Due to consistent worrying and being unable to maintain an adequate amount of sleep, severely depressed individuals are less able to keep their daily activities together and maintain a good relationship with their peers.

These and other problems are effective health de-stabilizers and these same symptoms can manifest in many health complications.

Depression may also affect marital relationships due to loss of sexual urges and other social activities which most couples enjoy.

Professional individuals experiencing depression may find it difficult to manage their work along side their relationships with family and friends. They find it hard to find enjoyment in petty things and usually prefer to be alone and suffer silently amidst the unsuspecting people around them.

This makes it even harder for patients to be treated successfully because they refuse to acknowledge the existence of the symptoms underlying clinical depression. Both proper education and treatment are required in order to fully identify and treat the specific diseases debilitating an individual with this condition.



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