Wikipedia defines depression as a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well-being. There may be a loss of interest in activities that once were pleasurable. There may be a change to appetite – a loss of appetite or over-eating. There may be insomnia or excessive sleeping. There may be loss of energy and unexplained aches and pains. There may be contemplation of self-harm or suicide. For all these reasons, it is important to understand that depression is real – it is a medical condition.
For me depression has always been quite physical. A weightiness. A darkness. And a familiarity such as you might feel with a loved animal come to share your lap.
But what is depression really? Perhaps it would be easier to eliminate what depression is not.
Depression is not about having a bad day, a ‘blue’ day. That is actually just normal life! The difference is how long those feelings last. Because they shouldn’t last for days or for weeks…. or for months. And if you suffer from depression, they do indeed last for long, long days…
Neurotransmitters in the brain help nerve cells communicate. These neurotransmitters are called serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. And these substances can change and get out of balance. Why? The reasons are many. It could be an illness. It could be hormonal changes. It could be medication. It could be ageing. It could be the result of an injury.
Or, it could be a reason which is not so easy to understand. A failed business venture. The death of a loved one. The ending of a relationship.
Whatever the reason, the change in the way that the nerve cells communicate, the change in the balance of the chemicals produced in the brain, results in what is called depression. The imbalance is a chemical one. The condition is real. And whether it has been triggered by something tangible or something not quite so tangible, it is diagnosable and treatable.
Depression knows no boundaries and has no favourites. It affects people of all ages, genders, races and socio-economic background. Is it reaching epidemic proportions? Consider this – by 2020, it is believed that depression will be the second most common health problem in the world.
So if you suffer from depression, know that you are not alone. And know that there is excellent help and plentiful resources available to you now.