Clinical Depression: a disease like any other. Clinical depression is defined as "a mood or emotional state that is marked by sadness, inactivity and a reduced ability to enjoy life" (2: 21). Depression is very different from the blues that people feel at one time or another. It is an illness, the same way that cancer or diabetes are illnesses. Depression affects the entire body and not just the mind. In most cases, it can be successfully treated.

This disease affects all ages, all races, all economic groups and both gender. Depression is one of the leading causes of alcoholism, drug abuse, other addictions and suicide. Depression was diagnosed as far back as in the times of Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician, who called the disease melancholia. He viewed it as an abnormal behavior which was caused by other diseases. Hippocrates recommended rest, exercise and a change in ones diet as treatment to this illness. Later, in the middle ages, this abnormal behavior was considered to be a result of demonic possession.

It was treated with exorcism, flogging and torture to drive the evil spirits from the body. It wasn't until the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries that physicians had a more scientific view on depression. Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer discovered that depression is a psychological and not a demonic force or organic abnormality. Depression is caused by many factors. The loss of a loved one during childhood or other traumatic experiments (ie.

abuse) can increase person's chances of developing depression later on in life. The number one cause of depression is stress. The everyday stresses in life can build up and cause a person to break down completely. Scientists have found that depression can be caused by "the defective regulations of release of one or more naturally occurring hormones in the brain (norepinephrine and serotonin) " (Nem roff part 16).

When these hormones are not regulated properly in the brain, it causes the depressed mood. In recent years, scientists have found more & more evidence, through research, that depression may caused by a genetic defect and it may be hereditary. "Studies of identical twins (who are genetically indistinguishable) and fraternal twins (whose genes generally are no more alike than those of other pair siblings) also support an inherit component" (Peterson 1417). These studies have shown that depression is greater in a pair of identical twins than in fraternal twins. Although studies on this theory look conclusive, geneticists are yet to find the exact gene on which this disease can be located on. In many cases, the cases, the cause of ones depression is very hard to pin point.

The sufferer may have experienced something so traumatizing that the event may have been blocked off from their conscious memory. Different people suffer from depression for different reasons. But in every case of depression, the symptoms are always similar. Some of the more evident symptoms are: Persistent sadness, anxiousness, empty mood Feeling of hopelessness, pessimism Loss of interest of activities Insomnia, oversleeping Loss of appetite and / or weight loss or overeating Fatigue, decreased energy Thoughts of death or suicide Restlessness, irritability Concentration loss, memory loss Without treatment, these symptoms can last for weeks, months or years. Not everyone who is depressed will experience every symptom because there are various types of depression. The most common depression is called dysthmia or mild depression.

"This condition involves chronic depressed mood, and poor self-esteem" ("Types", part 3) People with mild depression can function but are always sad. In many cases, the causes of dysthmia cannot be explained. A person can slip into dysthmia as easy as catching a cold. The next type of depression is called major depression.

Major depression causes despair and hopelessness to an extreme that the sufferer loses complete interest in their life and reaches a point that are incapable of feeling pleasure. Major depression also causes people to stay in bed for days and not eat for days. Like dysthmia, often major depression sufferers try to commit suicide and often succeed. Bipolar disorder, the 3 rd type of depression, is also known as manic depression. "This disorder involves major depressive episodes alternating with high-energy periods or wildly unrealistic activity" ("Types", part 13). For example, a manic depressive can call at 4 am and say that they are going to Las Vegas to marry Frank Sinatra and star in a musical.

This behavior seems normal to them but is very irrational to outsiders. The last 2 types of depression are "Atypical Depression" and "Post-Partum Depression." Atypical depression is when a person feels gloomy for a couple of days and then is fine. This keeps alternating until the sufferer breaks down completely and needs quick medical attention. Post-partum depression is a mild sadness and anxiousness that new mothers often experience. Often the cause of post-partum is the drop in hormone level after the baby is delivered. When a woman in pregnant, there are high levels of female sex hormones that circulate and this is completely reduced after delivery which causes biochemical depression.

As soon as a person is diagnosed with depression, it is extremely important to begin treatment. There are 2 main forms of treatment for depression. The first treatment is usually psychotherapy. This form of treatment tries to change the way patients think and interact with others. The 2 nd method of treatment is the prescribing of anti-depressant medications. Anti-depressant medications send nerve impulses to the brain to activate the circulation of the inactive hormones.

"They elevate mood in 60 to 80 percent of people who use them as directed" ("Anti-Depressants" 247). Depression is such a complex disease. This probably due to the fact that it is a disorder or the brain and scientists have only begun to discover the mysteries of brain. A person that slips into depression just like catching a cold makes depression an even bigger mystery. Even after patients of depression are properly diagnosed and treated, some relapse and slip back into a greater depression. This, quite often, cannot be explained which makes it even more frustrating for the patient as well as to people around.

Everyday scientists are developing new methods and medications to treat depression more effectively, but no medications can ever be relied on for 100% recovery. The patient has to want to get better and also needs emotional support from family members. Without these 2 factors playing a big role in recovery, the sufferer will probably withdraw completely from society and this could possibly result in death! Bibliography 1. "Depression." Encyclopedia Britannica: Micropedia. Vol 4. 1992.

2. Nemeroff, Charles B. "The Neurobiology of Depression." Scientific American. On-line. Internet.

26 April 1998. Available: web 3. Peterson, Shelly. "Unmasking Depression." Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. V 64. N 6.

Dec 1996. page 1417. 4. "Types." Depression.

com. On-line. Internet. 1998. Available: web (parts 3 & 13). 5.

"Anti-Depressants." The Gerontologist. V 38. N 2. April 1998. P 247.