The easiest explanation for depression is to describe the symptoms associated with that particular mental health disorder. You see, depression has a long list of indications of whether or not a person is afflicted with the illness. A few of the common signs include a feeling of hopelessness, a lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities, sleeping problems, and an overwhelming feeling of sadness or despair.

And it’s a mental illness that’s affecting a large portion of the population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 264 million people on the planet suffer from depression. But now that we know what it feels like to go through depression, let’s take a closer look at the illness from a medical standpoint.

How Depression Can Affect the Body

Depression is more than a change in a person’s mood from a psychological perspective. It’s also the result of alterations within the brain itself. And we’re not just talking about the chemical modifications that result from the illness, but structural abnormalities alter the anatomy of your brain as well.

For example, studies show that your brain’s frontal, prefrontal cortices, hippocampus, amygdala, and thalamus can all shrink while the mental health disorder wreaks havoc on a person’s central core center of their nervous system.   

Some studies show depression also restricts oxygen to your body. This can result in inflammation forming. It provokes damage to brain cells, too. Both issues can cause other symptoms to develop that change an individual’s mood. So finding the cause early on and correcting it is imperative.

The Root Causes of Depression

There is no one-sided answer to why depression affects people. Sometimes it might be the result of enduring a traumatizing event. The loss of a loved one, financial insecurities, or dealing with mental or physical abuse can impact a person’s outlook on life.

On the other hand, it may be a result of genetic disposition. A person’s family medical and mental-health history could be a root cause of the problem. If there is someone in your family who suffers from this mental illness, it could place you at a higher risk of developing depression as well.

A person’s lifestyle could be a factor, too. People who fight with addiction problems have higher rates of mental disorders. For instance, some drugs are classified as a depressant, so the imbalances of chemicals in the brain are a result of over-indulging on the substance.

Treatments for Depression

After you speak with a licensed psychiatrist, they’ll more than likely prescribe you some form of medication called anti-depressants. These medications help to stabilize the chemical imbalance affecting the brain—like serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine. However, other treatments are available, too. So you should speak to your doctor to learn about all of your options.

If your doctor feels your case could benefit from other types of treatment, then you may be referred to a psychologist to undergo psychotherapy. There is scientific evidence that supports the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy as a treatment for depression. Ask about all your options and choose what works best for your particular case.

Depression Shouldn’t Go Untreated

As with other mental illnesses, the statistics surrounding depression show the mental health disorder is globally on the rise. To combat clinical depression, you should always consult a doctor for medical advice to seek treatment.

It’s very important to do so. When depression peaks and is left untreated, it can lead to a person succumbing to thoughts of suicide. If you’ve ever had those thoughts, you’re not alone. It’s a problem that’s felt around the globe. When we look at global suicide stats, we see close to 800,000 people die each year due to a person taking their own life. To put that number into context, every 40 seconds that passes, another person has chosen suicide as a viable option as opposed to living. It’s at that moment a person’s depression has forced them to hit rock bottom.

While no age group is impervious to bouts of depression, the stats show individuals between the ages of 15 to 29 years old are more receptive to the dangers of this mental health disorder. In fact, according to the statistics, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in that age bracket.

Your life holds value. Everyone’s life has meaning. If you ever feel to the contrary, you should take the time to speak with a therapist. Depression is a treatable illness. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to seek some form of self-care. As always, your mindful-maintenance is important.