About depressive episodes
Depression is a serious medical disease that impacts how you act, feel, and think. It is a very common illness. Depression can lead to different emotional and physical problems and decrease your ability to function by inducing feelings of sadness or loss of interest in the activities you once enjoyed.1
Depression affects an estimated 1 in 15 adults a year. And 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some time in their life. Women are more likely to experience depression. Several elements can play a role in depression, including:1
- Chemical imbalances
- Family history of depression
- Underlying issues, including anxiety and low self-esteem
According to the severity, the number of symptoms, and the impact on the person experiencing the depressive episode, it is categorised as mild, moderate, and severe. There are different patterns of mood disorders:2
- An isolated episode is called single episode depressive disorder
- When the person has a history of at least two depressive episodes, this is called a recurrent depressive disorder
- When the depressive episodes alternate with a period of manic symptoms (including irritability and increased energy or activity), this is called bipolar disorder
Depression symptoms vary from mild to severe and can include:1
- Feelings of intense sadness
- Change in appetite: weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Increased fatigue and loss of energy
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Feeling worthless
- Problems in thinking, concentrating, and making decisions
- Suicidal ideation
Causes of depressive episodes
There is no single cause of depression. It occurs for different reasons, such as:3
Personality: people with low self-esteem are more susceptible to depression. This occurs because of early life experiences, inherited genes, or both.
Family history: if someone in the family had depression in the past, it is more likely you will also develop it.
Stressful events: events such as a relationship breakdown or bereavement can increase the risk of becoming depressed.
Giving birth: some women are vulnerable to depression after pregnancy because of physical and hormonal changes, and added responsibility for new life. All these can lead to postnatal depression.
Illnesses: some diseases, such as hypothyroidism, heart disease, and cancer can increase the risk of depression.
Drugs and Alcohol: unregulated substances can affect the chemistry of the brain which may increase the risk of depression.
Tips to manage depressive episodes
Depression can be managed with many different treatments. The initial treatment of depression includes medication or psychotherapy, which encourages patients to try and reframe their way of thinking. The combination of medication and psychotherapy is more effective than either of these treatments alone. Electroconvulsive therapy is used for severe depression.4
Treatment-resistant depression occurs when the person does not get better after trying two antidepressants. Esketamine is a newer medication for treatment-resistant depression. It acts rapidly to relieve depression symptoms.5
What is the fastest way to stop depression?
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is more efficacious and faster than any other form of treatment for severe depression. Electroconvulsive therapy is only used in certain cases, such as:4
- Suicidal ideation
- Severe depression during pregnancy
- Refusal to drink or eat
- Severe psychosis
What triggers a depressive episode?
Triggers for depression include:6
- Life-changing events
- Stressful events, such as divorce, bereavement, and illness
- Redundancy and job or money worries
- Traumatic events
How long do depressive episodes last?
To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must last two weeks. The time a depressive episode lasts differs according to the severity of the symptoms and the treatment you use.1
What happens to the brain during a depressive episode?
Depression changes brain chemistry. When you have depression, you lose grey matter volume which can shrink certain parts of the brain and slow the growth of the brain cells. Also, depression causes inflammation of the brain and cerebral damage.7
Can you prevent depressive episodes?
Yes, you can lower the risk of suffering from depression by:8
- Eating well-balanced meals and avoiding alcohol and high-sugar foods
- Getting enough sleep
- Write your negative thoughts or feelings down
- Challenge your thinking
- Try being more aware when depression happens and redirect yourself by doing something helpful
- Stay connected with your family and friends
- Practice self-compassion
Depression is a serious medical disease that impacts people’s entire way of life. It is a very common illness. Depression symptoms include feeling sad, a change in appetite, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and others. Depression can be managed through therapy and medications. If you are feeling depressed, please go to a doctor as soon as possible to get the treatment that can help you overcome it.
- Depression [Internet]. [cited 2023 Mar 17].
- Causes - Clinical depression. nhs.uk [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 Mar 17].
- Bains N, Abdijadid S. Major Depressive Disorder. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 17].
- Depression. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) [Internet]. [cited 2023 Mar 17].
- Overview - Clinical depression. nhs.uk [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 Mar 17].
- What Happens To The Brain During Depression - Transformations Center [Internet]. [cited 2023 Mar 17].
- Tips to Manage Depression | Anxiety and Depression [Internet]. [cited 2023 Mar 17].