What is depression?
A common mental health condition that affects approximately 2.1 million Australians, depression can impact every element of your daily life. This mental health issue can create feelings of intense sadness, leading to physical and emotional problems, a decreased ability to function, and the loss of interest or enjoyment in activities and experiences that were previously fulfilling.
Whilst our societal understanding of depression is improving, stigma can still lead to confusion about whether or not depression is the same as grief or sadness. While individuals may experience extreme grief or sadness in certain circumstances – such as the loss of a loved one, challenging relationship experiences, professional problems – depression, by contrast, is often connected to a sense of worthlessness or self-loathing.
By understanding depression’s impact, you can assess whether depression may be keeping you from living the highest quality of life physically, mentally and emotionally.
What are the symptoms of depression?
As with all mental health issues, depression can present itself in a wide range of symptoms that can be different from individual to individual. Depression can also range from mild to severe. Common symptoms can include:
- Feelings of sadness, hopeless, or emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies you previously enjoyed
- Changes in appetite
- Problems falling asleep or staying asleep
- Difficulties with concentrating and focus
- Feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing
- Thoughts or acts of self-harm or suicide
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, seeking professional help is necessary for a diagnosis and ongoing depression recovery support.
Types of depressive disorders
You may be diagnosed with a specific type of depressive disorder, including:
- Major depression (also known as clinical depression, depression or unipolar depression). This is symptomised by a sensation of feeling sad, down or miserable the vast majority of the time, with subtypes of major depression including melancholia, psychotic, antenatal or postnatal depression. You may be diagnosed with mild, moderate or severe depression.
- Dysthymic disorder – this is a form of long-term depression which lasts a minimum of two2 years. Symptoms are similar to major depression but with less severity.
- Bipolar disorder – this occurs when you experience periods of depression and periods of mania, with experiences of a regulated mood in between.
- Cyclothymic disorder – similar to bipolar disorder, but less severe, this is a long-term condition lasting a minimum of two2 years. Individuals with cyclothymic disorder experience periods of mania and depression that are milder and shorter.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – this mood disorder has a seasonal pattern. The most common form of SAD can cause depression in the winter and improved mental health in the warmer months.
What are the possible causes of depression?
There’s no specific cause of depression, but several things can contribute to its development. For many people with depression, its origins can be linked to a combination of life events, individual factors and changes in the brain itself.
Likely contributions can be a family history of depression, specific personality traits (such as a tendency to worry, low levels of self-esteem, perfectionism, negativity, self-criticism and a sensitivity to criticism), a serious medical condition, ongoing drug and alcohol use, traumatic or negative life events, and changes within the brain that can impact its ability to regulate your mood.
How is depression diagnosed?
A depression diagnosis requires the assessment of a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. They’ll work with you closely to undertake a thorough assessment of your individual circumstances, symptoms, medical history and family history.
When should I see my doctor?
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to consult your healthcare professional. There are a wide range of treatments available for depression that can be transformative to your ability to engage with everyday life. There’s no reason to suffer alone – if you’re experiencing any of depression’s symptoms, reach out for professional help.
How is depression treated?
As depression is a highly personal experience, therapy for depression also requires a nuanced and individualised approach from a team of medical practitioners. Some types of depression respond more effectively to certain forms of treatment than others, which is why appropriate medical treatment is necessary to building sustainable and long-term treatment pathways.
The vast majority of depression treatments fall under these three categories:
- Self-help and alternative therapies
At Hope In Health, we take a unique and integrated approach to the treatment of depression, bringing therapeutic treatments from all three categories into your program. This holistic approach can build a foundation for long-term recovery from depression and ongoing support.
Can depression be prevented?
There’s no definitive way to prevent depression. However, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing depression, including maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing healthy stress levels, and proactively seeking help if you experience any of depression’s symptoms.
Preventative strategies can include:
- Maintaining a balanced diet and regular exercise routine
- Healthy and regular sleep patterns
- Limiting or removing the use of drugs and alcohol
- Utilising relaxation techniques to minimise the impact of stress
- Developing and maintaining strong relationships and social support networks
- Drawing on skills developed through cognitive-behavioural therapy to cope with negative thoughts
- Seeking the help of mental health professionals
Potential causes for depression include:
- Genetics – genetic factors and inherited traits can impact the way the brain functions
- Brain chemistry – imbalances in chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine can result in a depression disorder
- Environmental factors – traumatic or stressful life events can either trigger or contribute to depression, with childhood trauma or abuse also increasing the risk of developing depression later in life
These risk factors can increase the risk of developing depression:
- A family history of depression
- Chronic stress
- Particular medical conditions
- Substance abuse issues
What are the complications of depression?
Without adequate professional treatment, depression can lead to numerous complications. You may find you’re unable to effectively function at work or in personal commitments, a rise in relationship problems, and increased substance abuse or dependence. In some severe cases, individuals may also struggle with self-harm or suicidal ideations as a result of a depressive disorder.
How can we help?
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression or suspect you may have a depressive disorder, we’re ready to support you in your recovery journey.
Our expert team of mental health practitioners and integrated clinical experts provide the highest quality of comprehensive care. We treat the root of your depression in our depression rehabilitation experiences, not its symptoms, to build sustainable pathways towards genuine recovery and long-term management.