Depression is a common mental disorder that affects about 5% of adults worldwide. The disorder is manifested by persistent sadness and lack of interest in activities that used to bring pleasure. Depression is thought to be caused by a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors and can cause problems at school and at work.
Depression is a complex illness that is still not well understood by the world's greatest psychologists, neurologists and psychiatrists. 350 million people suffer from major depressive disorder and 60 million from bipolar disorder. Except for the undiagnosed. These numbers show the importance of understanding the different types of depression, from major depression to minor depressive disorder, and finding the right treatment. The plague of depression comes, and after a prolonged struggle, it often goes. But for half of people, depression returns! (Curry et al., 2011; Klein & Kotov, 2016). And in about 20% the disease is chronic (Klein, 2010). Compared to previous generations, depression is occurring earlier and more frequently, with the highest rates in older teens and young adults. Did you know that therapy often speeds recovery, but some people recover from depression without professional help? Some do this with no future depression and with "optimal well-being"? (Rottenberg et al., 2019). Permanent recovery is more likely when: The first episode occurs later in life, the person experiences minimal physical and psychological stress, and most importantly, THERE IS ADEQUATE SOCIAL SUPPORT.
What does depression look like?
Symptoms of depression may include sadness, crying, feeling empty or hopeless, angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, loss of interest or pleasure, sleep and appetite disturbances, and difficulty concentrating. Risk factors include certain personality traits such as low self-esteem and biological differences. Treatment for depression includes psychological treatment and medication, and prevention programs have been shown to reduce depression.
One of the most studied theories about the causes of depression is the serotonin hypothesis. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that is involved in regulating mood, anxiety and sleep. Low serotonin levels are often associated with depression. However, it is important to note that depression is a complex condition that can result from multiple factors. Serotonin is only one piece of the puzzle and there are other factors such as genetic, environmental and psychosocial factors that may also play a role. An article in Nature Molecular Psychiatry brings new evidence. "A systematic review of studies of serotonin levels in people with depression found no evidence that depressed people had lower serotonin levels or abnormal serotonin activity compared to non-depressed people." More on this in our article.
In Germany, about 5.3 million people suffer from depression each year, and about 17 percent of German adults will have a persistent depressive disorder during their lifetime. One study found that in Switzerland, 13.5 percent of 16- to 25-year-olds have moderate to severe symptoms of depression, compared with 8.6 percent of the general population.
Different types of depression
There are several different types of depression, such as major depression, persistent depressive disorder, minor depression or bipolar disorder. Treatment for these disorders may include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, writing or talk therapy, coaching, medication, and other therapies such as electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and vagus nerve stimulation.
Major depression is often characterized by symptoms of hopelessness, increased irritability, loss of pleasure, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. It can also cause sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, feelings of worthlessness and pessimism, and physical symptoms such as fatigue, disturbed sleep and headaches.
Major or minor depression?
Mood swings are temporary emotional fluctuations that may occasionally include depressed moods, while depression is a semi-permanent state of hopelessness and fatigue that does not subside after at least two weeks. Major depression is characterized by greater psychiatric distress and poorer psychosocial functioning than mild depression.
Mild depression, on the other hand, is also known as subclinical depression and is a mood disorder that does not meet all the criteria for major depression, but has at least two depressive symptoms for an extended period of time. Unlike major depression, the symptoms of mild depression are less pronounced and can often be better hidden by sufferers. Nevertheless, they too can severely interfere with daily life.
Symptoms of mild depression include depressed mood, loss of interest, sleep disturbances, fatigue and increased irritability. People with mild depression can often still participate in everyday activities and perform their jobs, but they find it difficult to take pleasure in activities and often become exhausted quickly.
It is important to take depression seriously and seek help. If one believes they are suffering from depression, they should seek help from a medical professional to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Overall, it is important to be aware that depression is a common and serious condition that affects many people. However, it is also possible to treat and recover from depression. By taking symptoms seriously, seeking help, and receiving individualized treatment, it is possible to reduce the severity of depression and find joy in life again.