As is well known, depression is a very common disorder that is one of the most important health problems in the world. However, despite its high frequency in the general population, few people come to see a clinician (psychologist or psychiatrist).
We all feel sad, melancholic, or, as we often say, “down” at times . But if one is thinking that it may be a depression, there must be characteristics that differentiate it from the emotions that occur on a day-to-day basis. We will try to point out some important characteristics to make it easier to identify this life-threatening disorder .
What do we understand by depression?
Broadly speaking, depression is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and / or emptiness. The way of thinking of the person is pessimistic in the future and tends to be focused on negative events of the past. The person with depression has unwarranted feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness.
Regarding the physical manifestations of depressive syndrome, the person is always low in energy or fatigued despite not having done anything during the day (often spending a lot of time in bed). Headaches, gastrointestinal or general discomfort appear that do not resolve when the traditional treatment is used.
However, the characteristics that are normally essential that define that an emotional distress can be identified as a disorder are:
– That this discomfort continues for too long.
– That our mood significantly interferes with our day to day.
– The presence of suicidal thoughts or planning or attempted suicide . It is a very important signal that makes the need to seek help essential.
How does it occur in women?
Depression occurs much more frequently in women, both at the level of the general population and if we check the number of them who consult a psychologist or psychiatrist. Both biological (for example, hormonal) and sociocultural factors have been found to influence the tipping of the balance this way.
If we carefully examine the social role attributed to women, it is understandable that this disorder occurs twice as often in this population. The additional stress that work supposes to the usual responsibilities of the home and care of the children (who assume, in most cases, in their entirety), also the care of the elderly or relatives with some impairment in their autonomy, the greater frequency of poverty, related conflicts and, above all, mistreatment , make them more vulnerable.
How does it occur in man?
As mentioned at the beginning, not all the population affected by a depressive disorder attends a clinical consultation, but this is more evident in the case of men. Although it is true that, especially if we look at group therapy for depression, since the beginning of the economic crisis (and perhaps also due to social changes in terms of gender roles) the number of men receiving treatment has increased considerably .
Unlike women, men appear more physical symptoms (fatigue) and manifest signs of irritability or loss of interest more openly than those of sadness or excessive guilt.
Culturally, men do not tend to express emotional distress or concerns, which makes them more vulnerable to the abusive use of alcohol or drugs as a means of escape. Another characteristic is that although there is a greater number of suicide attempts in women, more men consume it and, usually, in a more violent way.
How does it occur in old age?
It is important to note at the outset that depression is not inherent in aging, nor is it all too common. In fact, the highest frequency of depression occurs in early-middle adulthood.
This tendency to think that it is something normal that happens with age can lead to depression going unnoticed. At other times it can even be confused with an onset of dementia due to the presence of marked concentration and memory problems.
This vital stage has, among its characteristic risk factors, the highest frequency of medical illnesses that often involve chronic pain or disability that make it easier to develop and often coexist with depression.
How does it occur in childhood and adolescence?
Until recently it was thought that depression did not occur in these life stages, but research has shown that it does not. Children and adolescents can also suffer from depression, although it does not occur in exactly the same way that it occurs in adults (although depending on the child is older, the similarity may be greater).
Instead of feelings of sadness and guilt, in minors it is more common for irritability and bad mood to appear . It can also take the form of trouble at school, being negative, or feeling misunderstood. In addition, in adolescents it is significantly influenced by the great change that identity formation entails and the great weight that social variables take.
Although in boys and girls it is given the same, from the age of 15 women are twice as likely as their male counterparts to present the disorder.
How to get help?
Today, there are numerous treatments for depression that can be roughly divided into two categories: drug treatments and psychotherapeutic treatments .
Both treatments are different since, although their objective is the same (to reduce the significant discomfort that the person experiences) they do not do it through the same methods.
The main advantage of drug treatment (always preferably prescribed by a psychiatrist) is that you have more options to achieve a rapid reduction of discomfort.
However, as can be seen from the brief descriptions of depression in each of the life stages, it is highly influenced by the social and situational factors in which we find ourselves at the time the symptoms appear. We must be aware that the drug alone will not change the situation in which we find ourselves.
What is meant by this? Well, depression is a disorder that, like all psychological disorders, requires an active subject who works to get out of that discomfort. From this perspective, working with the psychologist, although more difficult and prolonged, is important to maintain long-term improvement.
In conclusion, if you believe the sadness you feel is very different from what your experience is normal, from here we encourage you to seek help from a professional. Both a psychologist and a psychiatrist will help you solve the doubt and, in case it is a depressive problem, they will help you to get out of it.