Depression usually a treatable illness

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Depression usually a treatable illness: Serotonin deficit causes depression

Most people feel "blue" at some point in their lives. In fact, passing feelings of discouragement or sadness are perfectly normal, especially during difficult times. Unemployment, the loss of a loved one, an illness or stress within a relationship may cause temporary feelings of despair. However, if these feelings last longer than three-to-four weeks, a person may be suffering from depression.

Depression is one of the most common and treatable forms of mental illness. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that they are living with depression. They often attribute their feelings of being unwell to stress, not eating properly or lack of sleep. Indeed, if they looked at all of the symptoms together they would notice a distinctive pattern.

What is depression? Depression is a disorder caused by an imbalance of a chemical called serotonin. When the level of serotonin is too low, our mood becomes altered. Depression is therefore a true medical illness that requires professional attention. Nearly everyone living with depression has pervasive feelings of sadness; they may feel helpless, hopeless and irritable. It is believed that genetics play a role in some types of depression.

There are many symptoms of depression. An individual may have some or all of the following:

- Prolonged feelings of sadness, emptiness or tearfulness.

- Loss of energy, fatigue.

- Decreased interest or pleasure in almost all activities.

- Persistent feelings of hopelessness.

- Noticeable changes in sleeping patterns, inability to sleep, or sleeping too much.

- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, indecisiveness.

- Recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicide.

- Noticeable change of appetite, weight loss or gain.

- Feelings of worthlessness.

- Lack of desire for physical intimacy.

- Feeling agitated or lethargic.

- Physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach pain.

For many individuals living with depression, these mental and physical feelings seem to follow throughout their day, and over long periods of time. Depressed feelings are not alleviated by happy events or good news. Some people are so disabled by their illness that they may not be able to get out of bed for several days.

Depression may occur at any age. Research suggests that treatable depression is very prevalent in children and adolescents, especially among offspring of adults with depression. Scientists believe that more than half of the people who have had one or more episode of major depression will have another at some point in their lives.

Depression can also strike late in life. Its symptoms -- including memory impairment, slowed speech, slowed movement which may be mistaken for those of senility.

Depression is one of the most treatable mental illnesses. Between 80 and 90 per cent of all depressed people respond to treatment, or at least see some relief from their symptoms. Depression is a very complex illness, a proper evaluation by a qualified professional is imperative. It should include a medical and psychiatric history.

Current medications should be revealed, as some can actually bring on or alter a person's moods or thoughts. A complete physical should also be performed. Once diagnosed, there are many different types of treatments available. The two types most often prescribed are medication therapy and psychotherapies.

The most important thing to remember when caring for or about a person who lives with depression is that they have little or no control over the initial illness. We do, however, have control over how we treat them. Depression is not self inflicted, no one wants to develop symptoms. However, the reality is that some people in our lives will.

What can we do? We can love them in spite of the illness. We must educate ourselves, if we realize that our partner, child, sibling or friend cannot just "get over it," then we are half way to assisting them in their recovery.