What is depression?

We are all familiar with sadness and sadness, experience negative emotions for various reasons, or even without them, when we get out of bed “on the wrong foot”. Sometimes we even feel depressed. But depression is more than ordinary feelings.


Employees at the Mental Health Research Center at Australian National University define a depressive episode as a period of two weeks or longer, during which a person constantly experiences feelings of sadness or loss of pleasure combined with physiological and psychological symptoms such as fatigue, sleep or appetite, guilt or futility, difficulty concentrating and thinking about death. In order for doctors to diagnose clinical depression (major depressive disorder), it is enough for the patient to experience at least one depressive episode.

Over 650 thousand Australians face the disorder annually. Approximately 12% of the Australian population suffers from clinical depression at least once in a lifetime.

Australia’s example shows how common the problem is. The World Health Organization calls depression the third “cost” disease in the world, which causes a greater burden on society than heart disease. In addition, the disease is closely associated with other common mental disorders, including anxiety and substance use.

Unfortunately, when faced with depression, two out of three patients try to deal with it on their own. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, for example, in 2007 only 35% of patients with symptoms of mental health problems sought medical attention. Researchers explain this picture as a lack of knowledge of people, and social stigmatization of depression. Patients are embarrassed to admit to a “shameful” disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors

There is no single reason why depression develops. But there are biological, psychological and social risk factors, a combination of which increases the likelihood of the disorder.

Biological factors include hereditary predisposition, prolonged illness or injury, chronic pain, dependence on drugs and other drugs, chronic sleep problems and the presence of a child. Depression experienced at least once in a lifetime becomes an additional risk factor for the development of a new depressive episode in the future.

Among the psychological factors – low self-esteem and a tendency to self-criticism. Demographic and social factors include stress, difficult childhoods, and unemployment. According to statistics, women face depression twice as often as men. Being a woman is a social risk factor.

As a rule, just one risk is not enough to cause depression. The disorder provokes a combination of several factors and adverse life situations. The more of them, the more vulnerable a person becomes.

Treatment and prevention

The most effective and common methods of treating depression are cognitive-behavioral conversational therapy aimed at correcting negative thinking patterns, and antidepressants.

Since the development of depression provokes a combination of risk factors and difficult life situations, researchers believe that lifestyle changes can prevent the disorder. It has been proven that good sleep, physical activity, healthy eating, and abandonment of psychoactive substances are associated with a decrease in symptoms of depression.

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