biological illness, one that often has a devastating impact on behavior, thoughts and feelings. Althoughdepression can be triggered or worsened by specific events or problems, as well as depressive thoughtpatterns and personality traits, medical research has shown that it occurs as a result of a chemical imbalancein the brain. Almost every one of us has, at one point or another, experienced feelings of unhappiness, "a bluemood", that could be associated with a disruptive life event - but true depression entails a pervasive feeling of sadness that impairs our general functioning and lasts for more than two weeks.
Some of the more common symptoms of depression are:
• Changes in sleep habits such as insomnia, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much.• Changes in eating habits such as loss of appetite or weight gain.• Decreased energy, feeling of fatigue.• Restlessness and irritability.• Difficulty in concentration, remembering; difficulty in making decisions.• Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt or worthlessness.• Persistent sad, anxious, or empty feelings.• Loss of interest in pleasurable activities, such as involvement with loved ones or hobbies.• Thoughts of death or suicide.
Causes and Treatment of Depression
The neurotransmitters (naturally occurring chemical messengers that carry electrical signals in our brain) serotonin and norepinephrine play a significant role in maintaining our mood. When theseneurotransmitters are in low levels, the symptoms of depression, as listed above, become clinically evident.While depression can be considered a biological illness, there is little doubt that certain personalitytraits, attitudes and ways of thinking about the world can contribute greatly to the development andmaintenance of depressive symptoms. This test not only assessed levels of depressive symptoms, but alsoevaluated various other traits to identify whether a depressive cognitive style, personality, or attitudes are alsoat work. The personality traits measured included Maladaptive Perfectionism and Rumination. The cognitivevariables measured the tendency to attribute failures and setbacks to internal, stable factors, as well as lookingfor a tendency to attend to disheartening stimuli in the environment. Finally, the attitudinal measures assessedconcern about what other people think, as well as the tendency to over-dramatize negative events.Depression can be treated, depending on the severity of the individual case, using a combination of medicationand therapy. Over the years, a wide range of antidepressant medications has become available. The oldestones are the series of tricyclic antidepressants and the newer ones consist of the SSRIs, Prozac, Paxil andmany others. Antidepressant medicines are non-addictive and safe if used as prescribed. Studies have shownthat 76% of patients with Major Depressive Disorder recover using antidepressants compared to only 18% on a