Depression in the medical sense is a mental illness that is accompanied by a depressed mood, a lack of joy and interest, and a lack of drive. Depression is very common; in the course of their lives, about 16 to 20 out of every 100 people develop depression.
It is estimated that up to a quarter of patients who consult a general practitioner suffer from depression. However, only half of them are diagnosed and only a quarter are treated sufficiently.
Women are diagnosed two to three times more often than men. This is probably due to the fact that men on the one hand go to the doctor less often because of a depression, on the other hand the “male depression” expresses itself by another symptomatology.
What is the difference between mood and depression?
Each of us has experienced phases of depression, despondency, joylessness or inner exhaustion. Disgruntlement and sadness are normal reactions of the psyche to certain events – a private disappointment, a professional failure, a separation or the loss of a loved one.
The mood low is usually closely associated with a stressful event; as soon as the pain or stress subsides, the mood brightens again after a certain period of time. These temporary mood lows, which are often colloquially referred to as “depressing”, “depressive” or “depression”, must be distinguished from depression in the medical sense.
In case of doubt to the doctor
Although the transition from a normal mood to a pathological depressive episode is perceived as fluid by most people, the experienced physician can make a relatively clear distinction. Depression in the medical sense is a serious condition that needs treatment – and is usually well treatable.
What are the symptoms of depression?
The focus is on symptoms such as:
gloomy mood lack of interest and joy Lack of drive or drive to act
Often, these psychological symptoms are felt over a very long period of time by depressives. It is also characteristic that depression often occurs “for no reason” and people suffering from depression do not let themselves be cheered up.
Depression sufferers report feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, and some also report a constant need to cry. A state of numbness or inner emptiness is often described. In some cases, however, anxious tension and restlessness can occur.
People who suffer from depression often believe that they are in some way responsible for the cause of the illness – the illness is therefore seen as a result of personal failure. In addition, those affected are often plagued by strong feelings of guilt and a lack of self-esteem.
The influence of depression on the daily routine
Depression is characterized by changes in the biorhythm: sleep disturbances occur, typically in the form of premature awakening followed by brooding. The mood is also subject to fluctuations over the course of the day: For example, depressive symptoms are most pronounced at the beginning of the day, and lightening usually occurs in the afternoon.
Effects of depression on the body
In addition, there may be a reduction in appetite and sexual desire. But physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, circulatory problems, chest pressure, constipation or a feeling of fullness can also be triggered or intensified by depression.
Forms of depression
Depending on the cause, severity and symptoms, a distinction is made between different forms of depression :
Single depressive phases are called depressive episodes. These can occur once or repeatedly. In more than half of the first episodes, the disease reappears over time. This is referred to as a “relapse”. Between individual depressive episodes, years can pass, but they can also occur more frequently within a short period of time.
What are the causes of depression?
Depression changes the metabolism of the brain. The levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine are lower in depressed people than in healthy people. In addition to a reduction in drive, the ability to perceive feelings such as joy or contentment is also impaired.
Experts continue to discuss whether this metabolic disorder is the actual cause of depression or merely the result of other pathogenic processes. What is certain is that depression cannot be attributed to a single cause.
In most cases, various factors are involved that only cause depression when they interact. In simple terms, it can be said that it is internal and external circumstances that cause a person to develop depression.