American Psychiatric Association defines major depressive disorder (depression) as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how one feels, thinks and acts. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home. Depression can occur at any age.
Depression causes significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. With appropriate medical treatment, therapy and emotional support, 70 to 80 percent of patients can achieve resolution or significant reduction in symptoms.
What are the causes of depression?
The causes of depression could be a combination of different factors, such as genetics, chronic medical or neurological conditions and other stressors.
- Genetics: First-degree relatives of depressed individuals are about three times as likely to develop depression as the general population.
- Stressors: Stressors can be personal, familial, social and environmental, such as
- Chronic pain
- Medical illness
- Psychosocial stress
- Lack of sleep
- Impaired social supports
- Caregiver burden
- Negative life events
- Loss of a loved one
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Certain medications
- Poor parent-child relationship
- Traumatic life events
- Major life changes, such as divorce, loss of employment
- Neuroendocrine abnormalities and neurodegenerative diseases: Possible abnormalities of the neurotransmitter systems may cause depression. Neurodegenerative diseases (especially Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), stroke, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, cancer, macular degeneration and chronic pain have been associated with higher rates of depression.
- Vascular causes:
- Higher incidence of depression following a stroke
- Higher prevalence of ischemic brain changes in older adults with depression
- Association between depression and heart disease and depression and diabetes
- Higher rates of depression among patients with vascular dementia than those with Alzheimer’s disease
What are the complications?
Long-standing depression can cause the following complications in life:
- Increased risk of domestic abuse, fights, estrangement and divorces
- Loss of job
- Increased suicide risk
- Increased risk of other psychiatric disorders
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Halverson JL. Depression. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/286759-overview
American Psychiatric Association. What Is Depression? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
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