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How can you recognise depression and what can you do about it?

According to the German Federal Ministry of Health, about 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. But the real figure could be many times higher. That’s shocking. So it’s all the more important to make society and each individual more aware of this illness. Those who observe themselves attentively can react much more quickly and effectively if the initial symptoms arise.

How long has medical science known about “depression”?

The importance of depression as a pattern of illness only received particular recognition during the 19th century. Over the last thirty years of the 20th century, the medical term became fully accepted and was adopted into Meyer’s Lexicon for the first time in 1976. This suggests that the area of medical science dealing with this is still relatively young in comparison with many others. Nevertheless, the discoveries relating to causes, triggers and manifestations of, and therapies for, depression have made great progress in this short period. This is primarily due to the drastic increase in the number of diagnosed depressive illnesses.

What are the alarm signals to watch out for?

The word depression is derived from the Latin (“deprimere”) and means: suppress, weigh down. One could not have found a more fitting expression for this pattern of disease. Depressive people feel weighed down by their illness with all their various symptoms. These are so multi-layered and so individual from person to person that it often takes a long time till a case of depression is recognised as such. Those affected suffer primarily from a lack of drive, tiredness and a feeling of exhaustion. They lose interest in their surroundings, hobbies and the like, and withdraw from social life. Also counting among the commonest accompanying symptoms are sleep disorders, lack of appetite, nausea, disturbed concentration and thoughts of suicide. Depressive people feel paralysed and are therefore no longer in a position to help themselves.

During a period of depression, people no longer take part in life. They withdraw, crave quiet and want to be alone. If they are still able to work, they often spend the remaining free time in bed. They flee from reality, driven by an emotional numbness, a feeling of solitude and emptiness within. It’s a logical reaction, but unfortunately it fuels a negative downward spiral ever more strongly.

First aid

If this condition has already established itself over weeks or even months, there is an urgent need to call on medical advice. Victims can no longer escape the vicious circle through their own efforts, because they have scarcely any strength left.

A general practitioner will typically refer the sufferer to a psychologist or psychiatrist – to the latter particularly in order for any therapy including medication to commence. At Instahelp too there are psychologists specialising in depression. Treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist is particularly important in depression because the causes of illness must be determined. As a rule, if measures are taken only against the symptoms, the depression will return.

What causes depression?

The causes can be both biological and psychosocial. The biological aspects include a genetic predisposition and other underlying diseases such as thyroid insufficiency. But in most cases it’s the consequences of today’s fast-moving lifestyle that lead to burnout or depression at some point. Acute stress, psychological overload and negative, formative experiences are the main causes. Balancing family and job, mobbing, the demands we place on ourselves, always to function perfectly and do everything right, increasingly overtax us.

In any such case it’s important to tackle the disease as soon as it’s recognised. Nobody should have to feel beaten by the disease or helpless. Because, with suitable therapy, the will and the desire to get control of depression, everyone can do it. Often the only additional requirement is a little patience, a relatively small investment given the goal of a cure or improvement in the quality of life.


Photo credits: (c) iStock.com/kieferpix

Updated on: 22. June 2020
Depression - Sandra Linde