Depression: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

What is Depression?

It is an illness, which affects the mind, body and thoughts of a person. The entire personality is affected by the condition. Seeing the complexities of today’s fast paced lifestyle, depression has become one of the leading problems of people across the globe.

It can also be defined as a condition characterized by mental annoyance and lack of energy, vitality and concentration in life.

Individuals affected by a depressive disorder are unable to “pull themselves together” and get over the situation.

The symptoms may last for weeks, months or even years, if left untreated.

Depression: Types

The main types of depression are major depression, dysthymia and bipolar depression. The classification of depression is based on the presenting symptoms.

The following are the important types of depression:

  • Major Depressive Depression: It is the blend of symptoms, which hamper the ability to work, sleep, eat, and have pleasure. The frequency of such depressive episode may vary from once to many times in a person’s life.
  • Dysthymia: It is a less severe or moderate kind of depressive disorder. The symptoms are chronic but the routine activities are not curtailed.
  • Bipolar Depressive: It is characterized by cyclic episodes of elevated moods (manic phase) and depressive phase.  The intensity of mood swings may vary from mild to severe. In the manic phase, the person becomes highly energetic, hyperactive and over talkative. Such a display of heightened emotions leads to social embarrassment. Medical interventions are required for treatment.    
  • Postpartum Depression: It is also called “baby    blues”. Due to hormonal shifts, mood swings are noticed in post pregnancy period. The affected women require medical help. 
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD is the condition experienced by people in winter season due to weight gain, sleepiness, etc followed by a happy feeling as spring sets in. 
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): This type of depression is noticed in females two weeks after menopause. The symptoms are irritability, fatigue, restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, mood swings and being overwhelmed.  
  • Atypical Depression: This type of depression is characterized by the absence of the typical symptoms of depression like lack of appetite and sleeplessness (insomnia). Here the symptoms are overeating, excessive sleeping, etc., 

Depression: Causes and Risk Factors

Exact causes of depression are still unknown. However few possible causes are the chemical disturbances in brain. This could be either hereditary or due to any specific incidence or event in life

Sometimes, it is seen that stressful circumstances may aggravate the process of depression in a person’s life irrespective of age.

However some pertinent factors are:

  • Alcohol or drug intake
  • Painful situations such as:
    • Flunking in class, sudden illness or death in family, divorce, or break up in a relationship, marital problems
    • Abuse in childhood, parent’s neglect
    • Effects on a child due to parent’s separation
    • Sleeping disturbances
    • Teenage abuse, problems in getting marriage
    • Career instability and insecurity.

Depression: Prognosis and Complications

The prognosisof depression is quite good but not always. With many people it is a recurring issue. The complications range from tobacco addiction to even committing suicide.  


The prognosis of depression is found to be good except in few cases where it trouble again. Sometimes people are advised to take medication for long periods to actually subside the problem.


Some of the commonly seen complications are:

  • Alcohol and tobacco dependency or addiction
  • Premature death as a consequence of illness
  • Suicide in cases of major depressive disorder

Depression: Sign, Symptoms and Tests

The life of adolescents may be turned upside down by the depressive feeling. The lives of relatives and friends are also significantly affected by depression. The important sign, symptoms and tests for diagnosing depression are listed under.  

People having depression have a pessimistic attitude towards life. They see everything with negativity. In fact they are unable to find a positive amicable solution to any problem or condition in life.

The important symptoms of depression are:

  • Restlessness, irritability and anxiety
  • Remarkable alteration in appetite, weight loss or gain
  • Weariness and low energy
  • Hopelessness and feeling of helplessness
  • Self- hatred, worthlessness and a feeling of self guilt
  • Thoughts of committing suicide,
  • Thoughts of death
  • Sleeplessness or excessive sleep
  • Grandiose notions
  • Racing thoughts
  • Inappropriate social behavior
  • Loss of interest or enthusiasm in life’s activity
  • Lack of involvement in routine activities
  • Display of anger and discouragement
  • Psychotic symptoms like delusions and hallucinations may be present in severe cases.


Beck’s Depression Scale Inventory or other screening tests make the detection of depression.

It is important for the health provider to check for any associated medical conditions, which may be responsible for depression. 

Depression: Treatment, Medication and Glossary

Depression may be caused by medications taken for treating other diseases. Self-medication should not be done. Only doctor prescribed medicines should be taken. It is not advisable to either change or stop any medicine without the approval of the doctor.

 The treatment of depression is important, as the affected people are unable to function properly.

The patients of depression are to be treated in psychiatric hospitals where proper care and attention can be given and their illness can be cured to the possible extent.

Antidepressant drug therapy and psychotherapy are effective in treating most of the patients with depression. The individual shed off his negative thinking and his condition improves as the treatment progresses. 

Depression: Medication

Some antidepressant drugs are as under:

  • Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)- are commonest antidepressants eg, fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine(Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram(Lexapro).
  • Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are also frequently used antidepressants such as, desvenlafaxine (Pristiq),venlafaxine (Effexor), and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
  • Other medicines include: tricyclic antidepressants, bupropion (Wellbutrin), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
  • Antipsychotic medications are helpful in treating psychotic disorders like delusions and hallucinations.
  • In treatment-resistant depression, people do not respond positively to regular antidepressant dosages, they are given higher but safe dosages of antidepressants or medication combination is used. Thyroid hormone supplements and lithium are found to be effective in such cases.
  • Talk Therapy- Various types of talk therapies are used:
    1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps people in finding ways to tackle the negative thoughts.
    2. Psychotherapy helps them understand the actual foundation or root of their problem, deranged behavior or thoughts.
    3. Similar support group- Sharing experiences by joining a similar group of people with similar problem may prove to be beneficial.


Other important therapies include:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
  • Light therapy for depressive symptoms


Antidepressants – Drugs used to treat depression

ECT – It stands for Electroconvulsive therapy. It may improve the mood of severely depressed or suicidal people who don’t respond to other treatments.

TMS – It stands for Transcranial magnetic stimulation. It uses high frequency magnetic pulses that target affected areas of the brain. It is often thought to be a second-line treatment after ECT.

Light Therapy – It may help in the winter months to restore a normal sleep cycle. However, by itself it is not an effective treatment for major depression.

Psychotherapy – It can help someone with depression understand the issues that may be behind their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – It teaches depressed people ways of fighting negative thoughts. People can learn to be more aware of their symptoms, learn what seems to make depression worse, and learn problem-solving skills.