BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health: Clinical Depression



Clinical depression is a global health issue characterized by complex mood disorders which results from various factors such as genetic predisposition, personality, gender, stress level and brain chemistry. Depression is a common but serious medical illness that negatively affects feelings, thoughts and actions. It is not merely a feeling of unhappiness or mood swings that can be gotten over, but a health issue that can be clinically diagnosed. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression leads to a lack of interest and loss of fulfillment in activities that an individual once enjoyed. It can also lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems which decrease a person’s ability to function both at work and home. Some forms of depression develop under specific circumstances, examples include:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): This form of depression is caused by the weather and time of the year.
  •  Postpartum depression: This occurs in women, following the birth of a child. Over 10 per cent of women will experience this type of depression.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (Dysthymia): This is characterized by a constant moodiness with moderate symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression can vary from mild to severe and may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest in work and hobbies
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Pessimism
  • Low self-esteem
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations or delusions

An estimated 6.7% of adults experience depression at some point in their life in any given year. Additionally, one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression is most common among teens, young adults in their mid-20s and women. Although there is no single cause of depression, some risk factors include:

  • Family history of depression
  • Psychological vulnerability to depression
  • Biological factors such as imbalances in brain chemistry
  • Stress level
  • Personality and gender

There are no known laboratory tests for depression; however, health care professionals may carry out some tests to rule out conditions with similar symptoms. Questions about feelings, thoughts, behavior, history of mental health problems, physical health problems and routine activities are used determine whether a person may have depression so as to establish or make a diagnosis. Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. About 85% of people who suffer from depression eventually respond well to treatment and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. Commonly used treatments are:

  • Psychoeducation
  • Psychotherapy
  • Pharmacotherapy such as antidepressants
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
  • Magnetic seizure therapy (MST)

These treatments are used either individually or in a combination to increase their effectiveness. Clinical depression needs to be managed over the course of a person’s life to prevent recurrence. It can be effectively managed and controlled by combining a healthy lifestyle with regular treatments.

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