Exploring the dimensions of depression definition

depression definition

According to WHO, depression is a prevalent mental disorder, impacting approximately 5% of adults globally. It is characterized by enduring feelings of sadness, diminished interest or pleasure in once enjoyable activities, disruptions in sleep and appetite, along with common symptoms like fatigue and poor concentration. Notably, depression is a significant contributor to global disability and plays a substantial role in the overall burden of disease. Its effects can persist over time or recur, significantly hindering an individual’s ability to lead a fulfilling life.

The origins of depression involve intricate interplays among social, psychological, and biological factors. Various life events, including childhood adversity, loss, and unemployment, contribute to and may trigger the onset of depression.

Statistics reveal that approximately 6.7% of adults experience depression in any given year, and 16.6% will encounter it at some point in their lives. While depression can manifest at any age, it typically first emerges during the late teens to mid-20s. Moreover, women are more prone to depression than men, with some studies indicating that about one-third of women will go through a major depressive episode in their lifetime. Additionally, there is a considerable genetic component, with an estimated heritability of around 40% when first-degree relatives, such as parents, children, or siblings, have a history of depression.

Why is male depression often overlooked or underestimated?

Numerous factors contribute to the underrecognition of clinical depression symptoms in men. One key aspect is the societal expectation for men to downplay their problems and embody strength. Additionally, prevalent cultural norms in America often associate emotional expression with femininity. Consequently, men experiencing depression are inclined to discuss physical manifestations, such as fatigue, rather than delve into emotional symptoms.

>>> Recognizing and coping with different levels of depression

Who is susceptible to experiencing depression?

Depression can affect people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders.

Women are diagnosed with depression more often than men, but men can also be depressed. Because men may be less likely to recognize, talk about, and seek help for their feelings or emotional problems, they are at greater risk of depression symptoms being undiagnosed or undertreated.

Studies also show higher rates of depression and an increased risk for the disorder among members of the LGBTQI+ community.

>>> Depression signs and symptoms in males

Distinguishing depression from ordinary sadness or grief/Bereavement

The experience of losing a loved one, facing unemployment, or the termination of a relationship can be incredibly challenging for an individual. It’s common for feelings of sadness or grief to emerge in response to such situations, with those undergoing loss often describing themselves as feeling “depressed.”

However, it’s crucial to recognize that feeling sad is distinct from experiencing clinical depression. Grieving is a natural and individual process that shares some similarities with depression, such as intense sadness and withdrawal from regular activities. Nonetheless, there are notable differences:

During grief, painful emotions tend to come in waves, intertwined with positive memories of the departed. In major depression, a diminished mood or lack of interest persists for most of two weeks.

Grief typically allows for the maintenance of self-esteem, whereas major depression often involves feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing.

In grief, thoughts of death may arise when contemplating rejoining the departed loved one. In major depression, thoughts focus on ending one’s life due to feelings of unworthiness, the inability to cope with depression’s pain, or a sense of being undeserving of life.

Grief and depression can coexist. For some individuals, the loss of a loved one, job loss, or being a victim of a physical assault or major disaster may lead to depression. When grief and depression occur simultaneously, the grieving process tends to be more intense and prolonged than grief without depression.

Differentiating between grief and depression is crucial as it can guide individuals toward the appropriate help, support, or treatment they may require.

>>> List 18 symptoms of depression in male adults

Frequently Asked Questions about Depression

What factors contribute to the emergence of depression?

Depression stems from a complex interplay of various factors, including biological or genetic, psychological, and environmental influences, often in combination.

It can manifest as a primary psychiatric condition or as a secondary outcome linked to medical issues. Substance use, such as alcohol consumption, can also contribute to depressive symptoms.

Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, specific cancers like pancreatic cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s can be associated with the onset of depression. The relationship between these conditions and depression highlights the multifaceted nature of its origins.

Understanding Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) stands out as the most prevalent form of diagnosed depression. In 2017, approximately 17.3 million individuals aged 18 or older in the United States encountered at least one major depressive episode within the preceding year, constituting 6.7 percent of the entire adult population. Depression ranks as the primary cause of disability among Americans aged 15-44 (2).

Major depression manifests as an overwhelming sense of sadness or a diminished interest and pleasure in routine activities. Additional symptoms associated with major depression encompass:

  • Changes in appetite, either a decrease or increase
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive and inappropriate guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of death and suicidal ideation, with or without specific plans
  • Cognitive challenges, such as reduced ability to think, concentrate, and make decisions

These symptoms must endure for a minimum of two weeks and signify a substantial departure from the individual’s prior level of functioning. Major depressive disorder significantly impacts social, occupational, educational, or other essential aspects of life, leading to disruptions like missed work or school, avoidance of classes, or withdrawal from usual social activities.

Does Depression Impact Physical Well-being?

  • Mental and physical health exhibit a close interconnection, with depression being associated with notable changes in the brain. Moreover, depression can heighten the susceptibility to various medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, and migraines (NIMH, Steffan et al., 2020). Prolonged depression also raises the risk of obesity.
  • Research indicates that major depressive disorder may amplify the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease (Van der Kooy et al., 2007). Conversely, depression may manifest after a myocardial infarction, either as the initial occurrence or as a recurrent episode (Spijkerman et al., 2005).
  • Similarly, studies demonstrate a bidirectional relationship between depression and diabetes, with each condition increasing the risk of the other (Mezuk et al., 2008; Katon, 2011; Oladeji and Gureje, 2013). Depressive disorders in individuals with diabetes can lead to reduced adherence to diabetes treatment, elevating the chances of ‘poor glycemic control’ and complications related to diabetes (Oladeji and Gureje, 2013).

Can Depression Be effectively Treated?

Proven through research, there exist effective treatments for depression that have withstood the test of time. Despite enduring significant suffering, numerous individuals tend to overlook signs of depression, potentially influenced by stigma, lack of awareness, or barriers to seeking care. Untreated depression poses various risks. Initiating a conversation with your doctor about concerns related to depression is frequently the initial stride toward securing professional assistance.

What dangers are associated with untreated depression?

Neglecting to address depression may elevate the likelihood of more frequent, prolonged, and/or severe depressive episodes, as well as increase the risk of suicide. It can substantially disrupt one’s functioning in professional, academic, and interpersonal realms. Depression is also associated with an increased risk of developing alcohol and/or substance use disorders. Furthermore, it can exacerbate the trajectory and consequences of chronic medical conditions, including but not limited to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Is there a social stigma associated with depression in men?

Yes. Men often encounter challenges in grappling with the stigma surrounding depression. They are more prone to coping with their symptoms through alcohol consumption, substance abuse, or engaging in other risky behaviors. A significant number of men opt to refrain from discussing their feelings of depression with friends or family.

Is depression common in elderly men?

Certainly, while depression is not an inherent aspect of aging, elderly men may grapple with medical conditions like heart disease, stroke, cancer, and various stressors that can contribute to depressive symptoms. Experiencing multiple losses, such as friends, physical health, spouses, income, or meaningful work, can be particularly impactful. The transition to retirement can be challenging for many men, as it often brings about a loss of routine and structure, potentially increasing stress levels and diminishing self-esteem. Moreover, factors like the death of family and friends, the onset of other health issues, and certain medications can also play a role in contributing to depression in older men. Recognizing and addressing these factors is crucial for effective support and intervention.