Depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 3.8% of the population affected, including 5.0% among adults and 5.7% among adults older than 60 years (1). Approximately 280 million people in the world have depression (1). Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when recurrent and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Over 700 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

Not everyone with depression will experience the same symptoms. Symptoms can vary in severity, how often they happen, and how long they last. If you experience some of the following signs and symptoms of depression nearly every day for at least 2 weeks, you may be living with depression:

Generally most people will feel sad, anxious, or “empty”

Males may experience symptoms related to their:

  • mood, such as anger, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, or restlessness
  • emotional well-being, such as feeling empty, sad, or hopeless
  • behavior, such as loss of interest, no longer finding pleasure in favorite activities, feeling tired easily, thoughts of suicide, drinking excessively, using drugs, or engaging in high-risk activities
  • sexual interest, such as reduced sexual desire or lack of sexual performance
  • cognitive abilities, such as inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, or delayed responses during conversations
  • sleep patterns, such as insomnia, restless sleep, excessive sleepiness, or not sleeping through the night
  • physical well-being, such as fatigue, pains, headache, or digestive problems

Females may experience symptoms related to their:

  • mood, such as irritability
  • emotional well-being, such as feeling sad or empty, anxious, or hopeless
  • behavior, such as loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from social engagements, or thoughts of suicide
  • cognitive abilities, such as thinking or talking more slowly
  • sleep patterns, such as difficulty sleeping through the night, waking early, or sleeping too much
  • Physical well-being, such as decreased energy, greater fatigue, changes in appetite, weight changes, aches, pain, headaches.

Children may experience symptoms related to their:

  • mood, such as irritability, anger, rapid shifts in mood, or crying
  • emotional well-being, such as feelings of incompetence (e.g., “I can’t do anything right”) or despair, crying, or intense sadness
  • behavior, such as getting into trouble at school or refusing to go to school, avoiding friends or siblings, thoughts of death or suicide, or self-harm
  • cognitive abilities, such as difficulty concentrating, decline in school performance, or changes in grades
  • sleep patterns, such as difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • physical well-being, such as loss of energy, digestive problems, changes in appetite, or weight loss or gain

What actually causes one to get depressed?

Depression can emanate as a result of one of the following:

  • Brain chemistry. There may be a chemical imbalance in parts of the brain that manage mood, thoughts, sleep, appetite, and behavior in people who have depression.
  • Hormone levels. Changes in female hormones estrogen and progesterone during different periods of time like during the menstrual cycle, postpartum period, perimenopause, or menopause may all raise a person’s risk for depression.
  • Family history. You’re at a higher risk for developing depression if you have a family history of depression or another mood disorder.
  • Early childhood trauma. Some events affect the way your body reacts to fear and stressful situations.
  • Brain structure. There’s a greater risk for depression if the frontal lobe of your brain is less active. However, scientists don’t know if this happens before or after the onset of depressive symptoms.
  • Medical conditions. Certain conditions may put you at higher risk, such as chronic illness, insomnia, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, heart attack, and cancer.
  • Substance use. A history of substance or alcohol misuse can affect your risk.
  • Pain. People who feel emotional or chronic physical pain for long periods of time are significantly more likely to develop depression.

What are some factors that predispose one to depression?

Risk factors for depression can be biochemical, medical, social, genetic, or circumstantial. Common risk factors include:

  • Sex. The prevalence of major depression is twice as high in females as in males.
  • Genetics. You have an increased risk of depression if you have a family history of it.
  • Socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status, including financial problems and perceived low social status, can increase your risk of depression.
  • Certain medications. Certain drugs including some types of hormonal birth control, corticosteroids, and beta-blockers may be associated with an increased risk of depression.
  • Vitamin D deficiency. Studies have linked depressive symptoms to low levels of vitamin D.
  • Gender identity. The risk of depression for transgender people is nearly 4-fold that of cisgender people, according to a 2018 study.
  • Substance misuse. About 21 percent of people who have a substance use disorder also experience depression.
  • Medical illnesses. Depression is associated with other chronic medical illnesses. People with heart disease are about twice as likely to have depression as people who don’t, while up to 1 in 4 people with cancer may also experience depression.
  • The causes of depression are often tied to other elements of your health.

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