What Is Depression?

By jolene
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About 67% of individuals with depression are unaware that they are going through a treatable condition and, therefore, do not seek professional help. In some cases, the social stigma and persistent ignorance by the general public including many medical providers has led them to believe that it is a condition that can be wished or willed away. When many of these patients first seek treatment, they often present with vague somatic symptoms.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has classified the depressive disorders into different types. It can be further subdivided based on specifiers. The common features are often the presence of irritability, sadness, and somatic and cognitive changes, but differs based on timing duration and cause. This article will focus on major depressive disorder (MDD) in adults. MDD (or often referred to as depression) is a condition where there is at least 2 weeks of low mood accompanied by other symptoms.

1. Causes

The exact mechanism for MDD is unclear. Like most psychiatric conditions, it is believed to be due to multiple factors involving both genetics and environmental. Based on twin and family studies, depression seems to develop in early childhood and appears to be related to psychosocial influences.

Meanwhile, adolescent and adult onset depression appears to be more heritable. Genetics have been proven to play a crucial role in the development of MDD. Those with a first-degree relative with depression are 3 times as likely to develop depression. Although MDD can occur without precipitating stressors, the presence of interpersonal losses and stress can increase the risk of MDD. MDD is also more likely in the presence of medical illness, chronic pain, and psychosocial stress.


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