When doctors talk about the disease of depression, they aren’t talking about occasional feelings of sadness or “the blues” that all of us experience from time to time. Depression is a serious condition that can have a variety of persistent physical, emotional and cognitive effects.
* Appetite changes. Your interest in eating dwindles and you lose weight and energy. In some cases depression may cause you to overeat and you gain weight quickly.
* Sleep disturbances. You wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning and can’t fall back to sleep. Oversleeping is another problem you may sleep 12 to 14 hours at night but still not get out of bed the next morning or else return to bed very quickly.
* Changes in energy. You may feel slowed down, as though you were carrying a heavy weight around with you. Even the simplest tasks getting dressed, making breakfast seem like enormous obstacles. Some depressed people feel abnormally restless and are unable to sit still or relax their bodies.
* Sexual problems. If you enjoyed sexual activity before, you now feel a lack of interest and desire.
* Loss of pleasure. You no longer enjoy what used to give you pleasure hobbies, conversations with friends, a visit from someone you love.
* Increased anxiety. You feel nervous much of the time and may spend many hours worrying about your health or other problems in your life.
* Sadness. You feel despondent and often feel like crying. There may also be feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
* Changes in concentration. You seem unable to focus on what you’re doing and have difficulty making even small decisions.
* Impaired judgment. You have trouble making accurate assessments and tend to exaggerate your own faults, blaming yourself for your illness. This loss of judgment may cause you to “catastrophize,” turning minor events into major upsets.
What Causes Depression?
Although the exact cause of depression is unclear, there’s good evidence that depressed people have abnormal levels of certain brain chemicals called “neurotransmitters.” These chemicals, which transmit signals between brain cells, playa vital role in how you feel, think and behave. However, doctors still don’t know if abnormal brain chemistry actually causes depression, or if this chemistry is merely the result of depressive illness.
It’s unlikely that depression stems from a single cause. Most experts now think that certain factors such as heredity or childhood influences predispose you to the illness, while an event or combination of events for example, stress caused by loss or change actually triggers the symptoms. Here are some factors that have been implicated in depression.