Healthy Living

Depression: The Top 10 Questions

  • Researchers think that about forty percent of depression cases have a genetic link.
  • Depression is a serious mental disorder that causes individuals to experience a depressed mood, feelings of low self-worth or guilt, low energy, loss of pleasure or interest, poor concentration, and disturbed appetite or sleep.
  • A chemical imbalance is often blamed for the development of depression. However, depression goes far beyond biochemicals – it has many possible causes.

Depression: The Top 10 Questions

1 Is depression hereditary?


Yes, depression can be hereditary. Experts say that an individual with a relative who has depression has a higher risk of developing the same condition. In addition, a person who has a parent or sibling with depression is three times more likely to develop depression. A recent study has shown that a particular gene, chromosome 3p25-26, appears to be common among members of a family that has a history of depression. Researchers think that about forty percent of depression cases have a genetic link.

However, genes are not the only reason for the development of depression. There are also environmental factors that contribute to the occurrence of this mental condition.

2 Is depression a mental illness?

Depression is a serious mental disorder, not an illness, that causes individuals to experience a depressed mood, feelings of low self-worth or guilt, low energy, loss of pleasure or interest, poor concentration, and disturbed appetite or sleep. In addition, people with depression experience extreme emotions of anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, and negativity that stay with them. Depression can affect anyone regardless of age and status in life.

The exact underlying cause of depression has not been identified as it is thought that there is no single cause for its development. Healthcare professionals think that depression can be triggered by a physical illness or life crisis. Trauma, genetics, brain structure, life circumstances, alcohol and drug abuse, and certain medical conditions are some of the factors considered to contribute to the development of depression.

Some people with depression only experience one episode in their lifetime but for most cases, depression recurs. Depression can be destructive if it is left untreated. People experiencing severe depression can feel so hopeless that they think of committing suicide. In addition, depression can last for several years if it is not treated. However, when detected during its early stages, treatments such as medication, certain lifestyle choices, and psychotherapy can help people get better.

3 Does depression go away?

Depression can go away on its own but that’s for fortunate individuals. However, most of the time, depression can last for months or years, even a lifetime. Even when depression goes away, there is still the possibility of it coming back. This is because depression is often caused by chemical changes in the brain that cannot be simply defeated by determination and positive thinking.

It is thought that the relapse of depression is due to a more intensified triggering factor. Also, there is no adequate treatment that prevents or ever really solves the causes and triggers of depression. Moreover, some studies show that people experience relapse due to their prematurely stopping their depression treatment.

To prevent the recurrence of depression, the key is to continue following the doctor’s advice. Techniques such as going to therapy sessions, taking prescribed medications, talking with family members, avoiding alcohol and drugs, getting adequate sleep, engaging in stress-reduction techniques or meditation, and maintaining a healthy diet can all help prevent a relapse.

4 Does depression cause weight gain?

Depression and weight gain go hand in hand. When a person is depressed, the tendency is to be inactive and eat more. Some kinds of food such as those high in fat and sugar content can make a person feel better, but the relief is temporary. When you feel better, you tend to continue eating more and as a result, feel bad about yourself. Over time, this can lead to a deeper depression, more eating, and more weight gained. This is common cycle of depression and weight gain, the getting out of which can be difficult.

On the other hand, some people suffering from depression do not experience weight gain; instead, they lose weight. Neither weight gain or weight loss is healthy in combination with depression.

5 How does depression affect your health?

Depression is not your garden-variety feeling of sadness or the blues. The condition can affect one's ability to function normally. It is a serious disorder that can have a marked effect on your life. People with depression develop health problems that should not be ignored.

Depression can cause chronic body aches, headaches, and pains that do not respond to medications. People with depression may experience memory problems, difficulty making decisions, and the inability to concentrate, and may have trouble keeping up a normal schedule at work.

Depression can lead to either overeating or losing one's appetite. Overeating can cause type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure while a loss of appetite can cause malnutrition, cramps, and ulcers.

Stress plays a big role in depression. When a person is depressed and stressed at the same time, that person is at risk for developing heart disease. This is because stress makes the heart rate fast and tightens the blood vessels. As a result, the body is in a prolonged state of emergency. Aside from heart disease, depression and stress can result in hyperglycemia or increased blood sugar levels.

Finally, depression can weaken the immune system and have a deleterious effect on the body’s inflammatory response. Studies show that depression is associated with osteoarthritis, autoimmune disorders, and asthma.

6 How do you know you're depressed?

Depression is not just a feeling of sadness or melancholy. It is a complex disorder that can last for months or even years. It affects people in various ways and can cause varied symptoms.

People with depression can have lasting feelings of hopelessness or unhappiness, and feel very tearful and lose interest in the things they enjoy. Physical symptoms of depression include having no or too big an appetite, a lack of energy, always feeling tired, low or no sex drive, various aches and pains, and sleep disturbances including insomnia. The way one thinks is also affected. People who are depressed become more negative and critical. They start to blame themselves for problems and grapple with feelings of guilt and worthlessness. Symptoms of anxiety are also seen in many people with depression. Note that the symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe, and that severe depression can bring on suicidal tendencies.

If you think you or someone dear to you is depressed, seek medical help. Since there is a stigma when it comes to mental disorders, people are usually afraid or shy to ask for help, which only prolongs their condition. It is best to see a doctor early on to get quick relief and recover sooner.

7 Do I have depression or anxiety?

Depression and anxiety are two different mental conditions but they can go hand in hand as a great number of people with depression often also experience symptoms of anxiety such as irritability, nervousness, and problems concentrating and sleeping. However, the causes are different for each disorder.

Anxiety is characterized by a sense of vulnerability and doubt regarding future events. People with anxiety disorders always think about what’s going to happen in the future and at the same time, have a fear that the future is going to be bad. Symptoms of anxiety disorders include anxious thoughts, avoidant or self-protective actions and unexplained physical sensations.

On the other hand, people with depression do not generally show the same uncertainty and fear that people with anxiety experience. These people are not preoccupied with what will happen in the future. Depressed people think that they already have an idea of what’s going to happen and that it’s going to be awful, with the same negative feelings occurring at present.

To better identify and understand each condition, it is best to seek help from a psychiatrist to get the right diagnosis and treatment.

8 Are you depressed or just sad?

Feeling sad is part of your repertoire of emotions. It is normal for humans to feel sad. It is a feeling that occurs naturally throughout a person’s lifetime whenever a sad event happens. Thus, sadness is usually attributable to events or situations in one's life. However, if the feeling of sadness has gone on for several weeks (at least two weeks), it could be a sign that you are depressed.

With sadness, you can always find a way to lift your spirits. You eventually begin to feel better, and when the negative feeling has subsided, you will be generally happy again. With depression on the other hand, you have a constant feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness. You cannot find a way to pull yourself together and fight what you’re going through. People with depression need help from a medical professional to be able to feel better and fully recover.

9 What does depression look like?

Symptoms of depression include feeling sad or hopeless, a lack of energy, physical pains or aches with no identifiable physical cause, changes in appetite or weight, a loss of interest in sex, a lack of interest in activities that used to be interesting and fun, difficulty making decisions and concentrating, changes in one's sleep pattern, and thoughts of committing suicide.

Depression tends to have few physical symptoms, but what really constitutes danger are the mental symptoms, particularly the tendency to commit suicide.

Making a clinical diagnosis of depression requires a thorough evaluation of the patient and in the United States and many other countries, must meet the classifications set by the American Psychiatric Association and that are found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is now in its sixth edition (DSM VI). According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a person who is depressed must have five or more of the symptoms for at least two weeks. In addition, there must be a considerable impact on the professional, social, or other important aspects of a person’s life.

A chemical imbalance is often blamed for the development of depression. However, depression goes far beyond biochemicals – it has many possible causes. Factors such as genetic vulnerability, flawed mood regulation by the brain, medications, stressful life events, and certain medical problems can all lead to depression.

10 Can depression be cured?

Depression is a complex disorder that may require lifelong treatment. Some patients experience only temporary depression and need medication only for a few months. But for some, depression is a life-long battle. In such cases, the symptoms of depression recur and climax time and again. Along with medications, psychotherapy, of which the main types are cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy, is needed to help patients improve their quality of life as well as deal with their symptoms.

Depression is a treatable condition. It is important for patients to be aware of their symptoms as well as when their condition is triggered or gets worse. It is also vital to let their doctors know if the current treatment program is not working.

11 What is manic depression?

Manic depression is a serious mental disorder in which an individual experiences extreme inconsistencies in behavior, mood, and thinking. Manic depression is also called manic-depressive illness but is now clinically and most popularly known as bipolar disorder.

People who are affected by manic depression go through periods of mania and depression. In addition, they may experience repeated mood swings. Not all people with manic depression experience the same thing. Some people have mostly manic attacks while others may experience depressed states more. Experience both depression and mania at the same time is also possible for some people.

Manic depression can be treated only if the affected person seeks help. Untreated symptoms of manic depression can only get worse over time. Studies show that about fifteen percent of people with manic depression commit suicide if they do not receive medical help.

12 What is postpartum depression?

Giving birth can stimulate different kinds of emotions that range from joy and excitement to fear and anxiety. It is common for women to experience the baby blues, i.e., mood swings, difficulty sleeping, weepiness, and anxiety, after childbirth. The baby blues commonly start a few days after delivery and usually last for two weeks.

Some new mothers, however, suffer a more serious and long-lasting form of depression, that is, postpartum depression. Like the baby blues, it occurs soon after a woman has given birth. Postpartum depression is considered a complication of childbirth and requires the help of a medical professional.