Common Name/Other Name: Clinical depression; major depression; major depressive disorder; the blues
Depression or major depression is a clinical mood disorder wherein a person has constant feelings of hopelessness, despair, guilt or anger which can last for weeks to years. This condition is more than the normal mood fluctuation. It can be severe enough to impair one's occupational, educational, social life with depressed mood and disinterest in activities. Grieving due to loss of a loved one is not considered depression unless it persists for a long time. However, loss can trigger depression which in such cases is called complicated bereavement.
Depression affects people in different ways. Some people generally feel constant feelings of worthlessness with diminished interest in life while others can still function and put on a "smile" when with other people's company but deep inside they feel quite depressed. Major depression is not something people can "snap out" of immediately nor is it a weakness, however, it is curable with medication and psychological counseling.
A person with major depression must have experienced at least five of these symptoms for 2 weeks or more-most of the time, everyday:
Feelings of despair, emptiness, hopelessness or unreasonable guilt
Anger or irritability even over small matters
Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
Abnormal sleeping pattern including insomnia to hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day
Noticeable weight gain or loss
Difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering things or making decisions
Slowed thinking, speaking or movements which may be noticeable by others
Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches or back pain
Frequent thoughts about death which may or may not be accompanied by suicidal thoughts or attempts
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These are often the first choice of treatment for most types of depression because of fewer side effects and it is typically non-sedating. Side Effects: Low sex drive, headaches, nausea, insomnia, discomfort
- Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are often prescribed for people diagnosed with severe depression. Side Effects: Nausea, dry mouth, excessive sweating, anxiety, sexual problems, headache, loss of appetite, difficulty in urinating, tiredness, insomnia
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) are the older type of antidepressants which are rarely used because of its serious and various side effects. Side Effects: headache, nausea, insomnia, drowsiness, increased heart rate, chest pain, prickling or tingling sensation in the skin (paresthesia), reduced sexual desire
- Tricyclic antidepressants are effective but have more serious side effects than newer antidepressants. Side effects: dry mouth, weight gain, excessive sweating, palpitations or fast heartbeat, blurred vision, tremor, low sex drive, paresthesia
- Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) are one of the few types of antidepressants which do not frequently cause sexually-related side effects. Side Effects: insomnia, dry mouth, diarrhea, decreased appetite, dizziness, anxiety, tremors
Lifestyle modifications and Other Self-help Tips:
- Eat healthy. Cut back on anything that may trigger your depression like caffeine, alcohol and drugs.
- Get more exercise. Exercise and getting more sunlight are known to improve conditions of people with depression.
- Spend more time with your loved ones. Talking about it can help ease the burden of depression.
- Be creative. Find a creative outlet such as writing and painting, to help you express your emotions for you to feel better.
- Manage your stress. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
- Be your own advocate. Know more about your condition. Read self-help books and make a conscious effort to take charge of your situation.