The Widespread Effects Of Depression | BlackDoctor

    The Widespread Effects Of Depression

    (BlackDoctor.org) — Depression is one of the leading causes of disability
    worldwide. That’s the word from NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health
    (NIMH), the component of the federal government that studies depression and
    other mental illnesses.

    You probably know depression as a medical condition that primarily affects
    the brain. Its symptoms include a persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood,
    feelings of hopelessness, pessimism and worthlessness, and a loss of interest in
    hobbies and activities once enjoyed. The “Symptoms of Depression” side box
    contains a more complete description.

    But according to Dr. Husseini Manji, chief of NIMH’s Laboratory of
    Pathophysiology, the psychological symptoms of depression are just the “tip of
    the iceberg.” Because the brain is the body’s “control center,” the effects of
    depression spread throughout the body, often resulting in problems with sleep,
    appetite, energy level, motivation, memory, and concentration. Performing
    everyday activities can be an enormous challenge for people who are
    depressed.

    A Devastating Illness

    “Depression needs to be recognized as a devastating illness,” Dr. Manji
    explains. “It can occur with other diseases, but it is a very real medical
    condition in its own right.”

    Research shows that depression increases the risk of death for people of all
    ages. For those with other illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and certain
    infections, depression can make their symptoms worse. Elderly people with
    depression may be at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and depression may
    increase their chance of being admitted into a nursing home.

    No one knows better the ravages of depression than the estimated 20 million
    Americans of every age who suffer from depression. Although women and older
    people seem to have higher rates of depression, depression can strike anyone at
    any time. Those who have recently experienced a traumatic event, such as a
    divorce, job loss or sudden death of a loved one, may be at higher risk.

    More Than Stressed Out

    Dr. Manji emphasizes that depression is not a character flaw, a lack of
    willpower or a sign of emotional weakness. “You can’t simply wish or will
    depression away,” he says.

    People who are “stressed out” may think that their current situation is to
    blame, but a prolonged case of the blues that interferes with normal functioning
    is usually the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain,” he explains.

    That’s why treatment is so important — and the sooner the better. There are a
    variety of treatments that work, including medications and psychotherapy. NIMH
    researchers and others are constantly looking at new ways to treat and prevent
    depression.

    If you think you may be depressed, seek professional help (see “Where to Get
    Help”) and learn ways to cope to help you feel better (see “Tips for Coping With
    Depression”). Don’t let depression keep you down.

    — a report from The NIH Word on Health, April, 2003

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