Depression: Causes, Effects, Treatments

-By Sania Patel


In today’s rapidly developing world, mental illnesses are becoming increasingly popular. The American Psychiatric Association reports that nearly one in five (19 percent) U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness. Another, one in twenty-four (41 percent) suffer from a severe mental illness that affects the individual’s physical capabilities.

Mental illnesses, however, are not only prevalent in the United States. A 2017 study estimated that 792 million people lived with a mental health disorder of some kind, translating to 10.7 percent of the global population. The most prevalent of these disorders were anxiety, claiming approximately 284 million people, and depression hailing about 264 million people.

Although depression is one of the most common mental illnesses worldwide, it is still one of the most neglected. Many people suffer from this condition yet fail to get a proper diagnosis or actively participate in treatment. Depression describes a mental illness in which one suffers from a major depressive disorder. Depression is a common and severe medical illness that negatively affects how one feels, thinks, and acts. This mental illness causes extreme sadness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed. People who suffer from depression report trouble sleeping, loss of energy, increased fatigue, feelings of guilt and shame, as well as, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and thoughts of death or suicide.

The American Psychiatric Association records that an estimated one in fifteen adults is affected by depression each year. At the same time, one in six people will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression often first appears during the late teens to mid-20s, and women are more likely to experience depressive episodes and relapses than men.

There are several common causes of depression. The most prevalent reason is abuse - one who experiences physical, sexual, or emotional abuse during their childhood and early development years is more vulnerable to depression later in life. The second most prevalent cause of depression is age, as many seniors experience depression due to living alone, lack of social support, and limited freedoms. Finally, depression may also be caused by certain medications. Some drugs, such as isotretinoin, are used for everyday tasks - such as treating acne - however, these medications can cause depression as a side effect of usage. Although these are the three leading causes, there are many more instances in which depression can arise.

  1. Conflict: Some people are born with a biological vulnerability due to an underdeveloped brain. Depression can result from other mental or physical illnesses one may suffer - such as Tourettes, ADHD, schizophrenia, etc.

  2. Death Or Loss: Depression is expected after losing a loved one. Many people find it hard to recover from certain losses of family members or friends. They can find it challenging to cope with and recognize how it affects their mental capabilities and natural functions.

  3. Gender: Due to societal and work pressures, women are more likely to experience depression. Women often face lessened pay, increased responsibilities, and complicated social interactions in male-dominated fields.

  4. Genes: Although depression is a complex trait, there are a few different genes that can exert minor effects contributing to the increased risk of acquiring the disease. A family history of depression can increase the risk of depression.

  5. Significant Events: From marriage to losing a job, both good and bad events can cause depression. Major events can increase stress and anxiety, hindering beneficial events, while bad events are pushed to extremes, causing feelings of guilt, shame, and uncertainty.

In the short term, depression can cause a loss of appetite, weight loss, and other physical symptoms. Patients can also suffer from insomnia or hypersomnia, while certain biological traits can become prevalent due to common suicidal behaviors. These conditions can cause obesity, malnutrition, nausea, fatigue, and short-term memory loss. On the mental side, depression can cause the development of other mental illnesses, such as anxiety. It can also worsen and target more specific situations to become a particular type of classified depression.

Currently, there are many treatments for depression. One popular form of treatment is therapy. By interacting with therapists and other medical professionals annually, patients can overcome their depression and avoid relapses. Another form of treatment is through medication. There are two types of medicine available. First, there is the traditional prescription medicine called antidepressants, which work to change the brain chemistry that causes depression. Alternative medicine offers ways individuals can improve their well-being. They can do so through complementary therapies, including massages, acupuncture, hypnosis, and biofeedback. Brain stimulation therapy and self-help are less popular yet still relatively common.

Overall, depression is a mental illness that can have detrimental effects on psychological and physical health. There are many causes of depression, ranging from genetics to the surrounding environment. Although depression can be a bleak diagnosis, treatments are rapidly being created to advance current plans and help patients progress on defeating the disease.