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Depression

Sadness, feeling down, having a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities - these are symptoms familiar to all of us. But, if they persist and affect our life substantially, it may be depression.

Symptoms

  • depressed mood
  • reduced interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed, loss of sexual desire
  • unintentional weight loss (without dieting) or low appetite
  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
  • psychomotor agitation, for example, restlessness, pacing up and down
  • delayed psychomotor skills, for example, slowed movement and speech
  • fatigue or loss of energy
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • impaired ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions
  • recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or attempt at suicide

Causes

The causes of depression are not fully understood and may not be down to a single source. Depression is likely to be due to a complex combination of factors that include:

  • genetics
  • biological - changes in neurotransmitter levels
  • environmental
  • psychological and social (psychosocial)

Some people are at higher risk of depression than others; risk factors include:

  • Life events: These include bereavement, divorce, work issues, relationships with friends and family, financial problems, medical concerns, or acute stress.
  • Personality: Those with less successful coping strategies, or previous life trauma are more suceptible.
  • Genetic factors: Having a first-degree relatives with depression increases the risk.
  • Childhood trauma.
  • Some prescription drugs: These include corticosteroids, some beta-blockers, interferon, and other prescription drugs.
  • Abuse of recreational drugs: Abuse of alcohol, amphetamines, and other drugs are strongly linked to depression.
  • A past head injury.
  • Having had one episode of major depression: This increases the risk of a subsequent one.
  • Chronic pain syndromes: These and other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease make depression more likely.