What is depression?
Depression, also called major depressive disorder, is characterized by periods of low mood called depressive episodes. A depressive episode lasts for at least 2 weeks and can go for several weeks or months up to a year at a time. It is usually triggered by one or more of the following factors:
- Loss: Loss can be of anything, such as a job, money, a loved one, a relationship, or any cherished possession. This is the most common trigger of depression. Large surveys have found that about 44% of depressive episodes are preceded by some kind of interpersonal loss. This interpersonal loss may include the death of a loved one, divorce, or even the moving of a best friend to a far-away place.
- Job loss: People vulnerable to depression who have been fired from their jobs often feel embarrassed and worthless.
- Losing a loved one: Losing a loved one seems to be a devastating experience. While some grieve and come to terms with the fact of their loss and keep going, others may suffer from depressive episodes.
- Divorce or breakup: A divorce or a breakup (especially in the case of a toxic relationship) may be stressful enough to trigger depressive episodes.
- Targeted rejection: Deliberate rejection of one person from another
- Empty nest: Parents go into depression when their adolescents leave their homes.
- Caregiver stress: Caring for a family member with chronic illness
- Retirement: One's search for identity and marital problems may trigger depression.
- Delivery of baby: Postpartum depression
- Menopause: Estrogen decline may trigger depressive episodes.
- Winter blues: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year.
- Holidays: If people stay alone on holidays, it can trigger depressive episodes.
What puts someone at risk for depression?
Some people survive the loss of a loved one by grieving for a few months while not spiraling into depression. While for some, even a minor event, such as a recent breakup, can seem like a catastrophe leading them to depression. Certain risk factors make such people vulnerable to depression. These factors include the following:
- Having a low self-esteem
- Being too dependent on others
- Too much critical of oneself
- Having a pessimistic outlook
- Being a victim of physical abuse
- Suffering sexual abuse
- Having a history of other mental illnesses, such as eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Having a family history of depression or other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder
- Having a family member who suffers from alcoholism
- Having a history of suicide in the family
- Being from the LGBTQ+ community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.)
- Alcohol abuse
- Recreational drug abuse
- Serious illness, including cancer
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
No matter what triggers depression, people can always get help. They can visit a psychiatrist or talk to a mental health therapist. It is also necessary that people follow a healthy diet, stay physically active by exercising, get some sun, and get 7-9 hours of undisturbed sleep every day. Such a healthy lifestyle not only cuts down an individual's risk of falling prey to depression but also helps heal their soul.
Scientific American. "Researchers Take a Closer Look at the Most Common and Powerful Triggers of Depression." <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/triggers-of-depression/>.
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