What is Depression?
Sadness, regret, grief –these are all normal emotions that we experience from time to time. Depression, however, is more than just a case of the blues. Depression is a severe medical condition that can cause feelings of sadness, low-energy, low productivity, and a loss of interest in everyday activities. Over an extended period, depression can also lead to significant health problems which can put one’s life at considerable risk.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States as well as the rest of the world. According to the World Health Organization, depression affects over 300 million people around the world. In the United States, almost 17 million adults suffer from depression or about 7% of the population. Those numbers do not even include teenagers, who are reported to experience depression at a rate of 20%.
Causes and Risk Factors
A variety of factors and circumstances can trigger depression. Some of the most common causes of depression include:
- Genetics: Depression and other mental health conditions can run in families. If your family has a history of depression, you may be at higher risk than the average person.
- Biological: Differences in chemical composition affecting our brain can contribute to symptoms of depression.
- Environmental: Exposure to violence, poverty, and injustice may make some people more prone to depression.
- Medications: Side effects of some pharmaceutical medications may lead to various symptoms related to depression.
How to Tell if You Have Depression
Like many mental health conditions, the signs of depression are not always clear and can vary from person to person. However, some signs and symptoms are more common than others. If you have been experiencing any of the following for two weeks or longer, you may be suffering from depression:
- Anxiety and stress
- Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Overwhelming guilt or worthlessness
- Lack of interest in social outings and hobbies such as sports
- Low energy, fatigue, and/or lack of motivation
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Loss of interests in dating and sex
- Thoughts of death or suicide
How to Reduce the Risk of Depression
If you think you may be suffering from one or more symptoms associated with depression, consult a doctor to receive a proper diagnosis. In the meantime, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent these symptoms from taking a toll on your health.
Staying active benefits your physical health as well as your mental health. Exercise promotes the secretion of endorphins in the brain which are hormones responsible for the feelings of happiness and relaxation.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is widely used by patients suffering from a variety of mental health disorders including depression. By interacting with receptors in the brain,CBD can help balance stress and anxiety levels which usually lead to chronic depression. Additionally, CBD can help alleviate sleeping problems which is another common symptom of depression.
Avoid sweets, caffeine, and alcohol. While the taste or effects of these may feel good, that feeling is short-lived. In the long run, excessive sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can worsen your mood and contribute to a handful of ailments like heart and liver disease.
Make Time for Fun
If you are feeling down, making time for hobbies and plans with family and friends may seem difficult, but it’s crucial that you at least try. Spending time with the ones you care for and love can help negate some of the symptoms of depression. If family or friends are not available, go the movies or to a museum by yourself. It will do good to get out. Hopefully, after some time the activities you used to enjoy will begin to feel fun again.
For more information on depression, symptoms, and how to get help, visit the National Institute of Mental Health.