Depression is a complex medical illness that can impact the way you think, feel, and engage in daily activities. Here are some facts about depression that you may not know.
Depression impacts a person’s everyday life
Besides feeling sad, people with depression can lose interest in the hobbies and activities they used to enjoy.
This can cause a range of physical and emotional problems, and it can result in a person further withdrawing from social situations. It can also reduce their ability to function normally.
Depression most commonly begins in young adulthood
The condition can affect a person at any age, but, on average, people first experience depression in their late teens to mid-20s. A person is also more likely to experience depression if they have a parent or sibling with depression.
Depression Is More than Ordinary Sadness
Sadness is part of being human, a natural reaction to painful circumstances that all of us experience at some point in our lives. Depression, however, is an illness with many symptoms that extend well beyond an unhappy mood.
Anxiety and depression disorders are closely related. Nearly 50% of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
In 2017, an estimated 264 million people in the world experienced depression.
Depression isn’t the same as being ‘lazy’ or ‘weak’
Experiencing depression can mean that people struggle to get out of bed, get to school or work, or take part in activities that they used to enjoy.
From the outside, this can look like they’re not trying hard enough. The way that others respond to a person with depression is important, and the misconception that they are lazy or weak can make it more difficult for them to seek help and recover.
Depression can affect all kinds of people, even those who are traditionally considered to be ‘strong’ or who seem like they have no obvious reason to be depressed.
No one chooses to have depression
People don’t choose to be depressed, in the same way that people don’t choose to have cancer. So, telling a person with depression to cheer up or to ‘snap out of it’ can be harmful and can leave them feeling more isolated. Depression is associated with complex social, biological and cultural factors that can’t be wished away.
Major depression can lead to physical changes in the brain.
Although depression is a brain disorder, it also affects the body in tangible ways. In addition to sleep problems and fatigue, depression can cause changes in a person’s speech patterns and many people have aches and pains in different areas of the body.
In fact, in a survey of adults with a mood disorder, about half reported experiencing chronic pain, according to results published this year in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Studies have shown that the quality and volume of white matter that connects neurons and transports information was reduced in people who reported symptoms indicative of depression. It’s also been found that some patients with depression have a smaller hippocampus—an area of the brain that plays a major role in learning and memory—compared to patients who had one or no episodes of depression.
Depression causes different symptoms in different people
Someone who is depressed may experience any number of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:
- persistent feelings of sadness
- lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty taking care of yourself
- a change in sleep patterns
- a change in appetite
- increased anxiety
- body aches
- thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Smoking can cause depression
Smokers are more likely to have depression than non-smokers. Nobody knows for sure why this is. People who have depression might smoke to feel better. Or smokers might get depression more easily because they smoke. No matter what the cause, there are treatments that work for both depression and smoking.
It’s Not Always Depression
Some life events cause sadness or disappointment, but do not become clinical depression. Grief is normal after a death, divorce, loss of a job, or diagnosis with a serious health problem. One clue of a need for treatment: the sadness is constant every day, most of the day. When people are weathering difficult times appropriately, they can usually be distracted or cheered up for short periods of time.
Depression distorts your thinking
When you are depressed, your mind can play tricks on you. If you have thoughts of suicide, please call someone immediately. Don’t let a temporary glitch in your thinking cause you to harm yourself or another.
Persistent irritability can be a symptom of depression.
If the world, your life, or your loved ones constantly tick you off, the cause might be something that’s going on inside of you. That anger can lead to lashing out or withdrawing from those who love you. Neither one will get you what you need.
Depression ages you faster
Research has found that depression leads to accelerated cellular ageing and a heightened risk of ageing-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. People with depression have a shorter length of telomeres (a repeating DNA sequence found at the end of chromosomes). The more severe and longer-lasting the depression, shorter the telomere length the greater the ageing. Those who had previous episodes of major depression had shorter telomere length than those who had not experienced depression.