What is Depression?

Depression is a condition that can heavily affect the lives of those who are inflicted with it, yet it goes largely untreated and undiagnosed.  Feelings of sadness are a part of life, and occasional feelings of sadness during a time of loss or grief are common and natural. But when feelings of sadness, despair, dejection and inadequacy become a way of life for someone, they have the medical condition known as depression.

There are many different forms of depression, ranging from mild to severe, but generally speaking, when a person has depression, it is rooted in their psychological make up and can not always be easily detected. Depression can begin with a single grievous life event or an ongoing series of events. Depression can be very chemical in nature, meaning some people are naturally more prone to it through genetics or through their physical environment. Or it can be brought on entirely by life circumstances.

The medical definition of depression is when a person experiences disturbances to their life, appetite and sleep routines due to feelings of sadness, distraction, hopelessness and self loathing. It is reported that one in ten people living in the United States has depression, yet as many as eighty-percent have not received treatment for it. Depression is most likely to strike women in their forties, but cases of depression are found ranging between adolescence to senior years.

The Symptoms of Depression

The best way to identify depression is to understand what it looks like. There are many common signs and symptoms of depression that play a major part in diagnosing it. There are many different disorders that fall into the broad category of depression, such as bipolar disorder, melancholia and seasonal affective disorder, but in regards to the condition of depression itself, the person affected will often exhibit the following signs:

*A decrease in energy
*Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
*Physical symptoms such as pains, stomach upset and cramps
*No pleasure taken in activities that used to bring pleasure
*Restlessness and irritability
*Pessimistic, despondent feelings
*A sense of worthlessness or guilt
*Disturbances to a usual sleep schedule
*Inconsistent eating patterns and weight fluctuation
*Feelings of sadness or anxiety

Depression and Addiction

It is not uncommon for depression and addiction to be found together in a dual diagnosis. Often, they can reinforce one another and build on each other to strengthen destructive thoughts and behavior. The reason depression and addiction are commonly co-occurring disorders is they frequently have roots in the same maladaptive behaviors.

Both depression and addiction have roots in the inability to cope with life circumstances. Depression is expressed in the form of sadness, lethargy and negative thinking, while addiction is characterized by compulsively escaping from life circumstances into a pleasurable. This makes addiction a common, dysfunctional way of coping with depression. Sometimes the reverse happens and a person falls into depression because they are struggling with addiction.

When the two disorders are working in tandum, usually one is dominant and influences the other. In some instances, a person with little to no depression gets hooked on a substance or a behavior because they are influenced by addictive tendencies. When they become aware that their addiction is negatively affecting their lives but they do not know how to end it, they begin to think less of themselves and become vulnerable to depression.

Or, if they are prone to depression because of psychological, biological or environmental reasons, they may self-diagnose and seek their own remedy without the guidance of a medical opinion. Drugs, alcohol, or certain pleasurable activities such as sex are just a few of the escapes that a depressed person may turn to. Because these things have the ability to remove a depressed person from their negative emotions, they can become addictive to the point that the depressed person does not know how to limit their use of them, and addiction is born.

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The Fight Against Depression

Depression can be crushing to a person’s life, but being inflicted with depression does not mean a person needs to succumb to it. In fact, there are millions of cases of depression that saw the person overcome their condition and learn to control it. In order to restore a positive existence to a person with depression, they must first become fully aware of their condition and second seek treatment for it.

The simple act of connecting a person to information about their condition is not always simple. Everyone has different levels of awareness about their own medical conditions, and depression is no different. Many people fear that depression is a sign of weakness so they refuse to seek treatment for it. Others simply do not recognize that their negative thinking is more serious than just being in a common bad mood. Making information about depression readily available in public places and venues is very important to increasing awareness on it.

Once a person has identified their depression as a real medical condition, it is important that they are connected to proper treatment for it. It is best to begin by talking about their depression to their doctor, pharmacist or another member of their support system who can help them seek proper treatment. Usually said treatment will begin with counseling as changing a depressed person’s behaviors and thought patterns is the best method for permanent healing. In severe cases of depression and its various disorders, medication may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms.

Also important to a depressed person’s healing is their personal relationships. The stronger and more encouraging a person’s support system is, the stronger their recovery from depression will be. The value of positivity and encouragement to recovery from any condition should never be underestimated.