The ABCs of Depression, Part 1: The Basics of the Condition

What exactly is depression?

There’s always been a lot of confusion when it came to understanding depression because it’s often mistaken for simple sadness or even mourning. While it’s possible for depression to occur after a traumatic loss, the sadness that a person normally feels after experiencing loss is by no means equivalent to the experience of a person who has clinical depression.

Clinical depression is a mood disorder characterized by symptoms such as complete lack of motivation and inexplicable hopelessness. A person with a mood disorder may have good days interspersed with really bad ones. That’s why some people feel that depression is something that you can simply ignore and it will go away on its own.

Does depression go away on its own?

It’s certainly possible for a person to adapt to a mental condition so much so that he/she begins to show signs of normalcy.

However, it should be noted that depression is as much a physiological condition as it is a mental disorder and it arises not just because a person has a low mood but because there’s something wrong with how his/her brain is functioning at the moment.

In addition to emotional instability and low mood, clinically depressed individuals also suffer from chemical imbalances in the brain which makes this mental disorder even more unpredictable. Some days, a depressed person may feel like he/she is recovering and then wham, he/she feels the exact opposite after a few days.

The unpredictability of depression is overwhelming. No amount of mental conditioning can prepare a person for depression because it digs very deeply and touches the parts of the mind that helps a person cope with several trauma.

Imagine reaching for a firehose during a blaze only to discover that someone has taken it. That’s what it feels like when you’re trying to ‘fight back’ only to find out that your mental and emotional reserves have also been depleted by depression.

What causes depression?

Depression has nothing to do with a man or woman being mentally or emotionally weak.

Even the toughest veteran from any war can suffer from it. The biggest factor that influences a person’s risk for developing this mood disorder is his/her own DNA. A history of depression in the family, even if it’s your great-grandmother that had it before, is enough to predispose you to this mood disorder.

You may be wondering: is it possible for a person to have a risk for depression but at the same time be completely free of its symptoms even in late adulthood?

The answer is yes, this is definitely possible. A person’s general resistance to developing mental disorders is called resilience. A small percentage of individuals who have a high risk of developing clinical depression also have notably high resilience to it. These people are few and far in between.

People who have experienced mental and emotional trauma (especially those who suffered from parental abuse) are more likely to develop depression.

Individuals who have also been neglected and continually/permanently separated from their mothers when they were young may also suffer from major depression later in life.

Studies have shown that these traumatic events in childhood have a negative impact on the HPA region of the brain. This area influences a person’s general mood and the nature of the emotional spectrum that he/she experiences in stressful situations.

Are seniors also at risk for depression?

One would think that seniors, with all of their wisdom and life experiences, would be safe from mood disorders such as depression. Unfortunately, the truth is quite the opposite.

Seniors are even more likely to develop depression especially after the loss of a significant person in their life. It has also been discovered that seniors who spend most of their remaining years in nursing homes are more likely to become depressed especially if they’re not being visited by family on a regular basis.

Clinical depression can also arise as a result of long-term sickness. If a person is constantly stressed by the fact that he/she is dealing with a serious health condition, the unmediated stress can also trigger not just depression but also anxiety. If no help is given to stabilize a person’s mood, it’s likely that the person will suffer from long-term depression.

Current researches have also shown that unemployed women with children below the age of fifteen are more likely to develop this condition, especially if they are unable to confide in others regularly.