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Depression - Why it develops and what can be done about it

24 Feb 2022

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Depression - Why it develops and what can be done about it

Burnout or depression?

Burnout is often referred to as depressive moods that are accompanied by massive symptoms of exhaustion. Since there is no clear definition of the term, the use of the term is somewhat confusing.

Various psychological symptoms that require different therapies are summarized under the term burnout.

Because the term describes the illness as a result of being overwhelmed, it avoids the negative image that is associated with mental illnesses. However, saying that stress is the sole trigger for depression is not sufficiently descriptive.

Depression can affect anyone

It is believed that around five percent of the total population suffers from depressive moods that require treatment. The number of unreported cases is likely to be higher.

In cases with a severe course of the disease, depression can limit the quality of life so massively that a person becomes unable to work. Men and women are affected as well as children and adolescents.

The symptoms of depression are varied, from the inability to be happy, having sleep disorders, a loss of appetite, a total lack of drive to panic attacks or numbness and inner emptiness.

While the core symptoms are comparable among those affected, there are gender-specific differences: In men, there is an increasing tendency towards self-directed anger and suicidal tendencies.

In women, a retreat to the inside with brooding and anxiety can be observed. Depression in children is characterized by listlessness, irritation, eating disorders and self-manipulation such as thumb sucking.

Depression: Diagnosing symptoms

The symptoms are varied and not specific. Depression is therefore often diagnosed on the principle of exclusion. For a reliable diagnosis, it is crucial to rule out diseases with the same symptoms.

These include cardiovascular system diseases as well as thyroid or pancreas diseases, which affect the hormonal balance.

Until recently, various forms of depression have been described based on their environment. Depression, for which metabolic disorders in the brain were the cause, was referred to as endogenous, e.g. internal depression.

If one assumed external factors as the cause, one spoke of a neurotic depression or, in the case of short-term traumatic experiences, of a reactive depression. Special terms such as bipolar disorder, which describes the change of high and low moods, or terms such as winter, age and pregnancy depression describe special forms.

Today, it is believed that the principle of cause and effect is insufficient to describe depressive disorders. It is rather assumed that internal and external factors affect each other in a complex way.

In the course of this, a descriptive diagnostic practice has been established in which the respective symptoms are described using a generally applicable scheme and classified in terms of their intensity.

Researchers believe that there is an inherited predisposition to depression. Using so-called resilience research, scientists are trying to determine the genetic causes of some people being more resistant to highly stressful life situations than others. The research results could then help develop therapies for patients with depression.

Neurobiological and sociocultural causes of depression

The neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline play an important role in the transmission of stimuli to the nerves. In the case of depression, the metabolism in the brain is disturbed and the correct amount of serotonin and noradrenaline are not available.

This changes the irritability of the nerves, which can cause mood changes and other symptoms that are typical of a depression.

The human psyche is a complicated construct that is influenced by many external factors. Several theories assume that there are certain basic psychological needs that must be met for the soul to be in balance.

Again and again, the social environment (partners, family and friends), the need for security (protection of life, financial security, housing) and the meaning of life (work and job, tasks, being wanted) are mentioned.

If one of the basic needs is not met for a longer period of time or suddenly, the psyche becomes unbalanced. Depression can then occur.

Depression therapy

Depression is usually treated with medication or psychotherapy. Both treatment methods are often combined. Antidepressants are usually prescribed to treat hormonal disorders.

Because of their minor side effects, so-called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are mainly prescribed nowadays. With the psychotherapeutic treatment, the problem of each patient can be specifically addressed.

There is a wide range of methods available from conversation psychotherapy to analytical psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy to role playing.

Natural vital substances can help

Natural active ingredients such as 5-HTP and tryptophan can also lift low mood by increasing the level of serotonin. Recent studies also suggest that omega 3 fatty acids have mood-lifting effects.

However, they should be taken in combination with the usual therapy but only after consultation with the doctor in combination with medication.

Prevent depression

Even if you can't influence all external and internal factors that can lead to depression, it is still possible to try to prevent depression within your own possibilities.

People who avoid constant stress, have a healthy relationship between work and leisure, cultivate family ties and friendships, pay attention to a healthy diet, sufficiently exercise and have a reasonable sleep-wake rhythm make an important contribution to their own soul health.

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