Depression is a serious mental disorder in which a person suffers long periods of sadness and other negative feelings. The term depression also describes a normal mood involving the sadness, grief, disappointment, or loneliness that everyone experiences at times.
Depressed people may feel fearful, guilty, or helpless. They often cry, and many lose interest in work and social life. Many cases of depression also involve aches, fatigue, loss of appetite, or other physical symptoms. Some depressed patients try to harm or kill themselves. Periods of depression may occur alone, or they may alternate with periods of mania (extreme joy and overactivity) in a disorder called bipolar disorder. This condition is also known as manic-depressive disorder.
Psychiatrists do not fully understand the causes of depression, but they have several theories. Some psychiatrists believe that depression follows the loss of a relative, a friend, a job, or a valued goal. Many psychiatrists believe that experiences that occur during early childhood may make some people especially subject to depression later in life.
According to another theory, disturbances in the chemistry of the brain occur during depression. Brain cells communicate with one another by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. Some experts think that certain neurotransmitters become under active during depression and overactive during mania. Some women experience temporary depression in the weeks following childbirth. Experts believe that this condition, called postpartum depression, is caused by fluctuating levels of hormones and difficulty adjusting to the pressures of parenthood. In a few cases, postpartum depression can be severe.
Treatments for depression include hospitalization, psychotherapy, drugs, and electroconvulsive (electroshock) therapy. Hospitalization is an essential treatment for depressed patients who are suicidal. In psychotherapy, the psychiatrist tries to understand (1) the childhood events that make a person subject to depression and (2) the events that preceded the patient's current depression. The most prescribed antidepressant in the United States is a drug called fluoxetine. Fluoxetine is marketed under the name Prozac. Lithium carbonate is a drug used in treating bipolar disorder. Electroconvulsive therapy is generally used as a treatment only for patients who fail to respond to other treatment.
Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness in which a person alternates between periods of severe depression and periods of mania (extreme joy, overactivity, or irritability). The illness is also called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. Approximately 3 million people in the United States suffer from bipolar disorder. If treated inadequately, the illness can have tragic consequences, such as suicide.
In a period of depression, a person suffering from bipolar disorder may feel sad, anxious, irritable, hopeless, or unmotivated. Depressed patients may experience insomnia or excessive sleeping, decreased or increased appetite, weight loss or weight gain, slowing of thought and movement, and poor memory and concentration. Many think about wanting to die and have unrealistic feelings of guilt.
In a period of mania, a person may experience euphoria (indescribable happiness). The person may also be unusually irritable or may alternate between euphoria and irritability. Manic patients sometimes behave inappropriately. For example, they may laugh uncontrollably at funerals. Periods of mania also are characterized by increased energy, racing thoughts, increased rate of speech, decreased need for sleep, exaggerated sense of self-worth, and poor judgment.
Periods of depression and mania may follow one another at intervals of days, weeks, or months. Some patients experience mania and depression at the same time. They are among the most severely affected bipolar patients.
Scientists believe genetic factors cause many cases of bipolar disorder. About half of all patients first show signs of the illness in their teen-age years.
Treatment for the disorder includes drugs and psychotherapy. The most commonly prescribed medications are lithium, carbamazepine, and valproate.
Mood disorders, also known as affective disorders, mainly involve disturbances in the person's mood. The two chief mood disorders are major depression (extreme sadness) and mania (extreme happiness and overactivity). People with bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, suffer from alternating periods of depression and mania. Mood disorders are usually episodic-that is, the person experiences mood disturbances at relatively brief, distinct periods during the course of the illness. People with mood disorders typically return to normal levels of functioning after treatment.
Most people with depression feel sad, hopeless, and worthless. Many also suffer from insomnia and loss of appetite and have trouble concentrating. Some people with depression move and think slowly, but others feel restless. Some feel so hopeless and discouraged that they consider or attempt suicide. About 15 percent of people who seek treatment for depression commit suicide.
Antidepressant is the name of a group of drugs commonly used to treat major depression, a severe mental illness. Antidepressants also help treat other disorders, including chronic pain, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Antidepressants are thought to work by regulating the brain's neurotransmission system. Chemicals called neurotransmitters carry messages from one nerve cell in the brain to another. These chemicals attach to special molecules on nerve cells called receptors, both in sending and receiving messages. Antidepressants first increase the concentration of neurotransmitters in the brain. After several weeks of treatment, the receptors become less sensitive, and depression lifts.
The three main types of antidepressants are (1) selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI's), (2) tricyclic antidepressants (TCA's), and (3) monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI's). SSRI's and TCA's prevent brain cells from reabsorbing excess neurotransmitters after the chemicals have delivered their messages. SSRI's block the reabsorption of the neurotransmitter called serotonin. SSRI's include the most widely prescribed antidepressant, fluoxetine (Prozac). TCA's, such as the drug amitriptyline (for example, Elavil), block the reabsorption of several neurotransmitters, including serotonin and norepinephrine. MAOI's, which include the drug phenelzine (Nardil), inactivate a protein that breaks down excess neurotransmitters.
Most antidepressants are taken by mouth, and all require the prescription of a doctor. The drugs may cause various side effects. For example, SSRI's can cause increased anxiety, poor sleep, nausea, and loss of sexual interest. TCA's can cause hypotension (low blood pressure), irregular heartbeat, and constipation. MAOI's may combine with certain foods or drugs to create life-threatening hypertension (high blood pressure).
Anxious, insecure, and perfectionistic people who need this remedy may set high standards for themselves and others and become depressed if their expectations are not met. Worry about material security sometimes borders on despair. When feeling ill, these people can be demanding and dependent, even suspicious of others, fearing their condition could be serious.
This remedy can be helpful to serious people, strongly focused on work and achievement, who become depressed if they feel they have failed in some way. Discouragement, self-reproach, humiliation, and anger can lead to feelings of emptiness and worthlessness. The person may feel worse at night, with nightmares or insomnia.
A dependable, industrious person who becomes overwhelmed from too much worry, work, or physical illness may benefit from this remedy. Anxiety, fatigue, confusion, discouragement, self-pity, and a dread of disaster may develop. A person who needs this remedy often feels chilly and sluggish and easily tires on exertion.
A person who feels depressed because of grief and loss (either recent or over time) may benefit from this remedy. Frequent crying or a feeling of mental dullness and forgetfulness (with anxious checking to see if the door is locked, if the stove is off, etc.) are other indications. People who need this remedy are often deeply sympathetic toward others and, having a strong sense of justice, can be deeply discouraged or angry about the world.
A person who needs this remedy can be energetic and talkative when feeling well, but upset and gloomy when depressed with exaggerated fears (of insanity, of being attacked, of disaster). Painful menstrual periods and headaches that involve the neck are often seen when this remedy is needed.
Sensitive people who suffer grief or disappointment and try to keep the hurt inside may benefit from this remedy. Wanting not to cry or appear too vulnerable to others, they may seem guarded, defensive, and moody. They may also burst out laughing, or into tears, for no apparent reason. A feeling of a lump in the throat and heaviness in the chest with frequent sighing or yawning are strong indications for Ignatia. Insomnia (or excessive sleeping), headaches, and cramping pains in the abdomen and back are also often seen.
If a person feels depressed after working too hard, being physically ill, or going through prolonged emotional stress or excitement, this remedy can be helpful. Exhausted, nervous, and jumpy, they may have difficulty working or concentrating and become discouraged and lose confidence. Headaches from mental effort, easy perspiration, sensitivity to cold, anemia, insomnia, and indigestion are often seen when this remedy is needed.
Individuals who need this remedy are usually mild, gentle, and selfless making an effort to be cheerful and helpful, and avoiding conflict whenever possible. After being hurt or disappointed, they can become depressed, but keep their feelings to themselves. Even when feeling lonely, they withdraw to rest or listen to sad music, which can isolate them even more. Nervous and physically sensitive (to sun, to weather changes, and to many foods, especially milk), they may also get depressed when feeling weak or ill.
People who need this remedy seem reserved, responsible, and private yet have strong inner feelings (grief, romantic attachment, anger, or fear of misfortune) that they rarely show. Even though they want other people to feel for them, they can act affronted or angry if someone tries to console them, and need to be alone to cry. Anxiety, brooding about past grievances, migraines, back pain, and insomnia can also be experienced when the person is depressed. A craving for salt and tiredness from sun exposure are other indications for this remedy.
People who needs this remedy have a childlike softness and sensitivity
and can also be whiny, jealous, and moody. When depressed, they are sad and tearful, wanting a lot of attention and comforting. Crying, fresh air, and gentle exercise usually improve their mood. Getting too warm or being in a stuffy room can increase anxiety. Depression around the time of hormonal changes (puberty, menstrual periods, or menopause) can often be helped with Pulsatilla.
People who feel weary, irritable, and indifferent to family members, and worn out by the demands of everyday life may respond to this remedy. They want to be left alone and may respond in an angry or cutting way if anyone bothers them. They often feel better from crying, but would rather have others keep their distance and not try to console them or cheer them up. Menstrual problems, a sagging feeling in internal organs, sluggish digestion, and improvement from vigorous exercise are other indications for this remedy.
Quiet, sensitive, emotional people who have difficulty standing up for themselves may benefit from this remedy. Hurt feelings, shame, resentment, and suppressed emotions can lead them to depression. If under too much pressure, they can sometimes lose their natural inhibition and fly into rages or throw things. A person who needs this remedy may also have insomnia (feeling sleepy all day, but unable to sleep at night), toothaches, headaches, stomachaches, or bladder infections that are stress-related.
Note: Any information given in this Article is not intended to be taken as a replacement for medical advice. Any person with condition requiring medical attention should consult a well qualified classical homoeopath.
World Book 2003
Copyright with Dr. Sayeed Ahmad 2004
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