Depression… So what is it?

The word depression is used to describe a common feeling of sadness which all of us experience during our worst days. Every person experiences Depression in a different way. Depression is a common and genuine medical condition causing physical and psychological symptoms that require professional treatment. It is the leading cause of suicide in Australia, yet often goes unrecognized or treated.

Who suffers from Depression?

Everyday people, just like you and me, no matter what background you’re from. Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Robert Schumann, Ludwig van Beethoven, Peter Tchaikovsky, John Lennon, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Plath all suffered from Depression during their lives.

So what causes depression?

Depression can be caused by a variety of internal and external factors including:

External factors

  • Family conflict
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Bereavement
  • Job loss
  • Major life changes
  • Drug and alcohol abuse

Internal factors

  • Previous negative experiences
  • Personality (eg. perfectionism)
  • Medical illness / treatment eg. stroke, thyroid problems
  • Family disposition

Symptoms of Depression

Depression creates both mental and physical symptoms in our thinking, feeling and bodily experience, as well as in how we behave. These symptoms can vary from one person to another. Symptoms may change throughout the day, but are usually worse after waking up in the morning.

Common behaviors associated with depression
Behaviors commonly associated with depression include:

  • Increased drug and alcohol use
  • Withdrawal from social events
  • Increased irritability and frustration with minor events
  • Moodiness out of proportion to recent events
  • Heightened sensitivity to minor personal criticism
  • School or workplace absenteeism
  • Increased complaints about physical health problems eg. fatigue or pain
  • Loss of interest in food, sex, exercise and other enjoyable activities
  • Insomnia
  • Recklessness / taking unnecessary risks eg. driving fast and dangerously

Personality types commonly associated with Depression

  • Perfectionists
  • People who are sensitive to social criticism
  • Unassertive types
  • Those with low self-esteem
  • Self-critical and negative.
  • Shy or socially awkward

Depressions: The Facts

  • Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men. Women may be at a higher risk for depression due in part to estrogen, which may alter the activity of neurotransmitters that contribute to depression.
  • Each year, almost 800,000 Australian adults will experience a depressive illness. In the United States, more than 20 million people suffer from depression in a given year.
  • Depression is the third most common cause of illness among women and the tenth most common cause among men.
  • In 2001, Australian GP’s reported depression as the fourth most common illness that they dealt with in their practices.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in Australia.
  • Depression alone counts for more days lost to the workplace than those lost to industrial action.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that by 2020, depression will be the second biggest health problem world-wide, behind heart disease.
  • 80% of sufferers in Australia go undiagnosed.

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