What is the difference between depression and the blues?

Svetlana NetrusovaNews
Clinical picture of a depressive episode. Source:

The word "depression " refers to a syndrome, i.e. a set of symptoms, among which the main one is a low (depressed) mood. However, depression is often confused with other unpleasant conditions, such as blues, fatigue from excessive work or study, laziness, and temporary lack of mood, which sometimes occur in the life of any person.

If you call your temporary feelings or failures depression, it prevents you from correctly perceiving the characteristic picture of clinical depression, which is a disease, a mental disorder, and not something like sadness. When one girl says to another during a conversation: "I'm depressed, I don't think I'll go dancing tonight," or in a conversation between friends: "I'm not going to drink beer tonight because I'm depressed," it's clearly not about the disease.

It is clear that mentally healthy people cannot always be in a good mood, it changes depending on different circumstances and situations. However, sometimes people are quick to label sadness or a temporary bad mood as depression and are afraid of the quite normal state of their own psyche.

But when characteristic manifestations of depression appear, this is a reason to consult a specialist, namely, a psychiatrist. Because only a psychiatrist knows and has the right to make a diagnosis and prescribe medication and/or psychotherapy.

To understand what is a disease and what is not, you should know about the depressive triad and its main symptoms.

Clinical picture of a depressive episode

The translation of the name of this mental disorder is to press or oppress, that is, the name itself very eloquently describes the state of a patient with this mental illness.

It is characterized by a depressive triad: deterioration of mood (hypothymia), slowed down thought processes, and reduced motor activity.

It should be noted that a persistent decrease in mood should be observed for at least 2 weeks.

The symptoms of depressive syndrome are diverse and multifaceted.

  1. Lack of joy and satisfaction (anhedonia) even from those things that recently brought joy and pleasure.
  2. These are cognitive impairments - deterioration of concentration and perception of information. Such patients believe that their memory has deteriorated.
  3. Lack of desire to do the necessary work, both in everyday life and in the profession, decreased ability to work, increased fatigue.
  4. Sleep disturbances are observed, when it becomes difficult to fall asleep, sleep becomes shallow, waking up several hours earlier, and in the morning there is a persistent feeling that you did not sleep at all.
  5. Appetite usually worsens, and sometimes people lose about 10 kg of weight during depression.
  6. Depression is often accompanied by anxiety, longing, and hopelessness.
  7. There are ideas of self-abasement and self-blame, thoughts of suicide.

In a depressed state, a person may cry, feel sad, not feel joy in life, lose even small moments when they could call themselves happy, or face difficulties in the professional sphere, the inability to fulfill their duties, remember the necessary information, concentrate, and focus on doing their usual work. The person starts moving slowly, avoiding communication, wants to be left "alone," behavior and speech appear to be inhibited. He or she feels sad, joyless, useless, and even that life has no meaning, which can lead to thoughts of suicide and even attempts to commit it.

These are the flags that signal the presence of a depressive episode.

When is a depressive episode observed?

Depressive syndrome can be a manifestation of certain somatic diseases, such as hypertension, myocardial infarction, heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias), traumatic brain injury, neuroinfections, rheumatic and oncological diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, etc.

Depressive symptoms can also accompany endocrine pathologies. These are diabetes mellitus, hypo- and hyperthyroidism, etc.

In case of mental disorders:

  • reactive depression, i.e. a reaction to a traumatic event,
  • affective disorders - the depressive phase of bipolar-affective disorder (BPD) or an episode of recurrent depressive disorder (RDD)
  • schizophrenia, organic brain damage, etc.

Causes of depression

A very big problem is the lack of public awareness of the symptoms of depression, because in cases where a person who is trapped in this disorder appears in the close environment, there is no one to make an appointment with a psychiatrist in time, support, monitor the intake of prescribed medications, etc. But often, relatives and close friends believe that depressive symptoms are manifestations of laziness, weak character, lack of interest or inattention, and thus may worsen the patient's condition.

However, it has long been known that the cause of depression is a decrease in the synaptic activity of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.

In addition, in certain mental disorders (BPD, PAD), a genetic predisposition to the onset of this disease plays a major role. That is, the "broken" genes are located in the X chromosome, so women get sick 2 times more often than men, because women have two X chromosomes and men have one.

It is worth noting that there are certain factors that increase the likelihood of depression in a person.

These can be external acute and chronic negative factors or internal conflicts. Addictions, such as alcohol or gambling addiction, can have a very big impact, while drug addiction almost always leads to depressive disorders.

Treatment of depression

Only a psychiatrist can diagnose and prescribe medication for depression. During the consultation, he or she assesses the patient's condition and, if necessary, prescribes additional tests to rule out possible somatic diseases that may cause depression. An individual approach is required, which is not suitable for everyone, so you should not take advice from people without medical education, even if they have experienced this disorder firsthand. During the consultation, the psychiatrist will advise the need for inpatient treatment in case of suicidal thoughts or intentions, as well as when it is impossible to organize care and supervision with medication control at home. In all other cases, a person with a depressive disorder can be treated at home, with periodic consultations with a doctor.

The main group of drugs prescribed for the treatment of depression are antidepressants. They do not start working immediately, but after 2-3 weeks. In the presence of anxiety and poor sleep, sedation is prescribed for up to 2 months.

When depression does not reach a severe degree, treatment can be combined with psychotherapy. This will improve the patient's condition and accelerate his or her recovery, especially in case of reactive depression that has arisen due to certain traumatic events.

Don't be afraid to seek help from specialists in time, they will help you regain your quality of life!

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