Depression

Depression is a condition affecting a person’s mental state. Its severity can vary from a general, prolonged sadness to suicidal thoughts and irrational actions. It can make everyday life a chore and can last years if left untreated.

The causes of depression can vary from certain mood-altering environmental factors to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Research has also indicated that the condition may be hereditary in some cases, though it is still not known which specific genes instigate it.

Different types of depression

Atypical depression

People with this sub-type of the condition often experience depression as a child or teenager and continue to suffer with it in adulthood.

Symptoms include:

  • Sleeping irregularities such as insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
  • Digestive and eating problems such as over- or undereating
  • Having a sensitivity to rejection
  • Irritability and difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased sex drive

Bipolar disorder

This condition is less common and causes severe mood swings in the sufferer, varying from extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression). Thus, it is also known as manic-depression.

Manic symptoms include:

  • Euphoria
  • Spending sprees
  • Rapid speech and agitation
  • Socially inappropriate behaviour
  • Inability to concentrate and poor judgment

Depressive symptoms include:

  • Guilt and anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Sleeping and eating problems
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviour

Dysthymia

Many sufferers of this condition, which is a less severe form of major depression, lead normal lives and often do not seek help.

Symptoms include:

  • Sadness and emptiness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anger and anxiety
  • A tendency to blame others
  • Feelings of helplessness

Postpartum depression

This affects women, and sometimes men, after childbirth. Postpartum depression is thought to impact as many as 5 to 25% of women. It has been suggested that a possible cause is the hormonal change experienced by the mother when pregnancy ceases.

Symptoms include:

  • Sadness and irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Eating and sleeping problems
  • Crying episodes
  • Reduced sex drive

Treating depression

There is a variety of medication available to treat the different sub-types of depression. Psychotherapy, counselling and support groups have also proven to deliver results in less severe cases or in combination with prescription drugs.

In some cases, depression can be improved and even avoided by making a few lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Cutting down on alcohol and drugs
  • Exercising more
  • Keeping a busy work and social life
  • Sharing problems with others
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Maintaining a regular sleeping pattern

Actress and model Brooke Shields suffered with postpartum depression after giving birth to her daughter. Other clinically depressed celebrities include Jim Carrey, J.K. Rowling, Halle Berry, Hugh Laurie and Owen Wilson.

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