Depression: Causes and Symptoms

Depression is a mood disorder, that is, a complex of mental disorders associated primarily with the emotional sphere. This disorder is characterized by various emotional disorders, in which people experience sadness, anxiety, guilt, anhedonia, that is, loss of the ability to experience pleasure, or apathy – a state in which a person experiences neither negative nor positive emotions. In addition, depression is characterized by certain disorders in the sphere of thinking. For example, people with depression find it difficult to concentrate, to perform purposeful mental activities that involve concentration. Depressed people find it hard to make decisions. They have gloomy thoughts about themselves, the world around them, and people. Different medications are prescribed for depression. Sometimes this one:

Depression has physiological manifestations such as disorders of sleep, bowel function, and sexual needs. Patients with depression have an impaired overall energy tone and feel fatigued. With somatized depression, the person experiences unpleasant feelings in the body. If you look at such a person, you can observe passivity in his behavior, avoidance of contact with people, refusal of entertainment. Depression is often accompanied by increasing abuse of alcohol or other psychoactive substances that are used to improve mood.

Research on depression
Manifestations of melancholy have been described since antiquity. Hippocrates introduced the terms “mania” and “depression.” At the end of the XIX century, the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, the founder of the Kraepelin school, first described manic-depressive psychosis. Later, unipolar and bipolar forms of depressive disorder were distinguished. In modern concepts, manic-depressive psychosis is called bipolar disorder. In addition, it is possible to talk about the so-called neurotic depression, which can be affected by people who do not suffer from a mental illness, but have psychological difficulties that predispose to depression. Manic depressive psychosis was described long ago, and this concept is now considered outdated. In today’s world, the diagnosis of a depressive episode is more common and can have varying degrees of severity.

Causes of depression
Current understandings of depression are described within biopsychosocial models. The causes of depression are never unequivocal. Biological factors for depression have been confirmed by genetic studies, but the contribution of genetic factors is generally low. Neurochemical studies show that people prone to depression have abnormalities in the metabolism of neurotransmitters, which contribute to the interaction between nerve cells and the passage of electrical impulses.

The psychological causes of depression can be summarized in two main areas. First of all, these are disorders of self-esteem and self-respect – introjective versions of depression in which a person has a certain idea of his own self as unworthy of love and respect. In this connection, various variants of compensatory behavior are formed. For example, it can be expressed in such a personality trait as perfectionism. In this case, the person can accept himself or herself only when he or she is ideal, other people estimate him or her ideally and the products of his or her activity have no flaws. If a person’s life and activity are aimed at confirming a good attitude toward himself, a depression of exhaustion sets in. That is, if all activity is aimed at achieving results, a person loses mental energy, which is formed at the expense of experiencing positive emotions: joy, pleasure, interest. Such mechanisms of depression are more often characteristic of men.

Another direction in understanding the psychological causes of depression is problems in close relationships. When a person needs another person to feel alive and able to adapt to reality, he or she tends to merge with the other person and reduce the distance as much as possible. In such cases, the person experiences himself through the other person. This tendency to depend in relationships is fraught with depression. In such a relationship, the partner often feels suffocated. No space is left for him or her, and he or she is leaned on too closely. Such relationships often fall apart, and the person who needs this fusion feels it as a loss of self. People characterize this experience as follows: “It’s as if I don’t exist if the other has left me.” Such dependence often leads to depression because the person lacks the ego power that allows him or her to live autonomously.

In addition, depression has social mechanisms. There are certain cultural influences that affect the severity of depression in a particular culture. In northern cultures the incidence of depression is higher than in southern and eastern cultures. Here, the cult of success, rationality, and well-being is brought to the fore through the media and the upbringing of parents. In the process of growing up, people introject, that is, take deep into their worldview, the notion that they need to have a certain list of achievements in order to be good. Social comparison mechanisms are activated, and when people compare themselves with other people, and the comparison is not in their favor, it is fraught with depression. In addition, people pay a lot of attention to achievements in relation to their own bodily appearance: what their body needs to be like to be socially acceptable, and what they need to do with that body to be accepted in society.

Manifestations of depression.
Longing can be felt physically, in the form of a tightness in some parts of the body. Most often people talk about a tightness in the chest. There is the concept of vitriolic longing, when a person feels that something is bad, but does not understand what exactly. He is not experiencing loss, he is not suffering from separation from a loved one, but he is experiencing a state of vital longing. Patients with this symptom often say that they just feel bad, complaining of a depressed mood.

Anxiety is a feeling of internal tension, anticipation of something negative. Anxiety often accompanies depression, but can also occur independently. In depression, anxiety can occur in addition to homesickness and depressed moods.

Feelings of guilt and, in general, a tendency to self-accusation are characteristic of people with low self-esteem. Here, there is a connection of low self-esteem and depression. As a rule, a feeling of guilt is connected with personalization, i.e., with a mistake of thinking when a person often accepts bad events at his or her own expense and considers good events to be the consequence of external causes.

Anhedonia is a condition in which a person is unable to experience pleasure from things that used to make him or her happy. For example, a depressed patient says that he would have given half his life for a fishing trip before, but now he doesn’t even want to think about it. This is a consequence of the anhedonia, the estrangement from everything that used to touch him.

People experience apathy most often through their own passivity. Apathy is the most severe manifestation of depression, because this condition is difficult to treat with psychological methods. With apathy, nothing touches a person emotionally, either in a bad or a good way. In a state of apathy, a person wants to lie in bed, he has no emotions, nothing motivates him, no motives. At the same time, the person has obligations. For example, he tells himself that he has to get up, make breakfast, and feed the children, but this is experienced as pressure, an obligation, and not as a goal or desire. More often than not, people realize they are apathetic when they want nothing more than to stay in bed.

Sleep and Appetite. Emotions are psychological phenomena that have a large physiological, somatic component. They have a cognitive component at the level of experience: before we feel something, we interpret what is happening. When the emotional state is dysfunctional, the functions of the autonomic nervous system, which governs the internal organs, are impaired. A person experiences a variety of physiological symptoms: appetite disturbances to one side or the other, sleep disturbances. Internal stresses make sleep shallow or prevent entrance into sleep.

Behavior. At the behavioral level, depression manifests itself in passivity, avoidance of contact, refusal to entertain, gradual alcoholism or substance abuse.

In addition, emotions affect thinking. On the other hand, thinking affects emotions. Some people develop depression due to biochemical mechanisms that are independent of their personality. For example, a person has known since childhood that he is in a worse mood in the morning and that his mood improves in the afternoon. When a person feels a bad emotional state, he or she has an unconscious need to justify that state cognitively. The person has a need to think about bad things. Thinking can also affect emotions. The mechanisms of cognitive therapy for depression are based on the fact that with the help of the therapist, the person works on these errors of thinking that are inherent in depressive thinking. He becomes aware of these errors on a cognitive level.