Depression can be defined as sadness or grief that persists for excessively long duration as compared to normal and significantly impairs the normal functioning of an individual.
On account of millions of people being affected by depression worldwide, it is a huge public health problem. It is especially important to diagnose it and treat it in time because it affects not only the patient but his entire family as well as his work.
Depression can affect people of all ages and backgrounds; females are twice as likely to suffer from it as compared to males. The major problem with this condition is that it often presents with sub-clinical symptoms leading it to be under-diagnosed and hence under-treated.
The condition has a propensity to worsen as time progresses and it can substantially affect the functionality of an individual. In the worst scenario, depression can lead to suicide which results in loss of as many as 850,000 lives every year.
A few decades ago, depression would be classified as:
- Endogenous: This type is described as one in which there is no external cause for the depression; it can be of genetic origin or may be idiopathic.
- Neurotic / reactive: This type has an obvious external factor that has precipitated the condition. Common triggers include loss of a loved one, end of a relationship, death of spouse, a major set-back in life, etc.
Currently, depression is broadly classified into the following types, the first two being the most commonly diagnosed ones:
- Major depression: This significantly immobilise sufferers and prevents them from functioning normally. It interferes with a person's ability to enjoy activities which he once found pleasurable. Major depression can become recurrent or chronic in nature.
- Chronic depression (dysthymia): Longer duration (usually more than 2 years) but less severe symptoms characterize this type. It is less disabling as compared to major depression.
- Bipolar depression: Also called manic-depressive illness, patients suffering from this type have episodes of extreme highs (like mania) alternating with extreme lows (like depression). This condition tends to be cyclic in nature.
- Seasonal depression (SAD or seasonal affective disorder): Typically, the patient experiences episodes of depression during the winter months (when there is less natural sunlight) and this gets better with the onset of spring / summer.
- Psychotic depression: When depression is accompanied by the patient getting away from reality and experiencing delusions / hallucinations, it's called psychotic depression.
- Postpartum depression: The onset of major depression within a month of delivering a baby is called postpartum depression and it affects almost 10-15% of women.
The exact cause of depression cannot be pin-pointed; however, a combination of genetic, biochemical, and environmental factors has been understood to play a role in the development of the same.
- Genetic factor: People who have any of their blood relations suffering from depression are more prone to develop this condition and it has often been seen to run in families. Research is still going on to find out which particular gene is responsible for the same.
- Biochemical factors: Levels of chemical substances in the brain, especially serotonin and norepinephrine, are linked to depression. However, its still not clearly defined whether the change in their levels is the cause of depression or caused due to depression.
- Environmental factors: Certain situations in life such as loss of loved ones, major financial loss, difficult relationship, immense disappointment of any kind in life, physical or sexual abuse, etc. can trigger off depression. History of persistent deprivation in infancy is also associated with the development of depression at a later stage in life.
- Gender: After puberty, women are twice as likely to develop depression as compared to men. Before puberty, the incidence largely remains the same for both the sexes.
- Hormonal imbalance: This could be one of the causes for developing depression especially as seen during menopause, after childbirth, during premenstrual phase, etc.
- Suffering from physical ailments especially chronic ones like heart disease, cancer, HIV can be the cause for developing depression.
- Drugs: Depression can occur as a result of certain drugs especially corticosteroids, anti-parkinsonism drugs, levodopa; hypotensives such as methyldopa, reserpine; cytotoxic drugs such as vincristine, vinblastine, etc.
- Certain personality traits are more prone to develop depression as compared to others.
The symptoms of depression vary largely between patients and can range from mild, unnoticeable sadness to severely disabling symptoms. Not all people experience all the symptoms discussed here; the symptoms vary from patient to patient and also differ in severity and duration. Additionally some people have these symptoms persisting for long periods whereas others may have repetitive, sporadic spells lasting for some time.
It must be borne in mind that depression not only affects the patient but also burdens his family and friends; it ultimately even affects the patient's quality of work.
Depression can present as a combination of any of the symptoms mentioned here and it significantly affects the normal functioning of the person:
- Sadness, grief that persists
- Feeling of 'emptiness' in general
- Spells of crying (which may be causeless many times)
- Irritability, getting annoyed easily
- Activities that were once pleasurable are no longer enjoyed or there is lack of interest in the same
- Low energy level
- Negative thoughts that are persistent
- Decreased libido, loss of interest in sex
- Utter hopelessness
- Difficulty in focusing or concentrating on work or daily activities
- Suicidal thoughts; patient may even attempt suicide
- Feeling of being worthless or of no use
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Excessive sleepiness or lack of sleep; early morning wakefulness
- Changes in appetite - loss or increase in appetite
- Weight gain or loss that is not intentional
- Feeling helpless
- Persistent, unexplained complaints such as backache, headache, digestion problems, general cramps, etc. These usually do not respond to conventional treatments.
Homeopathy can effectively treat most forms of depression with good results. Research done in the past has also shown that significant improvement in depression symptoms and betterment in the quality of life of patients was clearly evident after homeopathic treatment. At Dr. Batra's, we have the experience and expertise in treating this condition successfully with homeopathy for more than 35 years now.
The duration of treatment for depression may vary from case to case and depends on several factors such as duration of the condition, its severity and its impact on the patient. Patients who have not lost touch with reality are likely to respond better than those who suffer from psychotic symptoms like delusions / hallucinations (which indicates loss of touch with reality). In addition, patients who develop a strong will (who do not give up on the treatment) and take adequate steps for the same are likely to show good response to treatment.
The medicines can help to reinstate the deviation from health back to normal and can help the patients to lead a better quality of life in general. In addition, homeopathy can help in avoiding the use of anti-depressants which often tend to be habit-forming as well as lead to side effects such as weight gain, high blood pressure, blurring of vision, etc.
Additionally, homeopathic medicines are not habit-forming and without any side effects. Thus treatment can be continued even for long periods without worrying about any untoward events due to medication. For people who are already on conventional treatment, homeopathy can help them to reduce their dependency on the conventional drugs while leading to good health in general.
Lastly, with adequate counselling and psychotherapy as an adjunct to homeopathy, patients can be effectively helped out of their depression to lead a normal, joyful and satisfactory life.