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depression is a common and serious mood disorder that affects how you feel, think and act. It can cause persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, anger or loss of interest in things you used to enjoy. It can also interfere with your daily activities, such as work, school, relationships or hobbies. Furthermore, it is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw and is a medical condition that can be treated with medication, psychotherapy or other methods.

History of depression

The history of depression goes back to ancient times when it was known as melancholia. Melancholia was considered a spiritual or physical illness caused by an imbalance of bodily fluids called humours. Different cultures had different beliefs and treatments for melancholia, ranging from exorcism and bloodletting to diet and music. Some of the earliest written accounts of melancholia come from Mesopotamia, where it was attributed to demonic possession. Ancient Greek and Roman physicians such as Hippocrates and Galen also described melancholia as a medical condition related to excess black bile in the spleen.

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, melancholia was often associated with acedia, a state of sloth and indifference that was considered a sin by the Christian church. Melancholia was also seen as a sign of genius or creativity by some thinkers, such as the English scholar Robert Burton, who wrote a comprehensive book on the subject called The Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621. Burton suggested that melancholia could be alleviated by a healthy lifestyle, social support, and meaningful work.

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18th and 19th centuries

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the humoral theory of melancholia was challenged by new scientific discoveries and theories that emphasized the role of the brain and nervous system in mental disorders. It was seen as a result of mechanical or electrical problems in the body, such as slowed circulation or depleted energy. The term itself was coined by the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin in 1896, who distinguished it from other forms of mood disorders such as mania and bipolar disorder.

20th century to modern times

In the 20th century, depression became more widely recognized and studied by psychologists and psychiatrists. Various psychological theories and therapies were developed to explain and treat depression, such as psychoanalysis, behaviourism, cognitive-behavioural therapy, and humanistic therapy. Biological theories and treatments also emerged, such as genetic research, neuroimaging studies, antidepressant medications, and electroconvulsive therapy. The World Health Organization (WHO) included depression in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) in 1948, and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) published its first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1952, both of which provided standardized criteria for diagnosing depression.

Today, depression is considered a complex and multifactorial disorder that involves biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. There is no single cause or cure for depression, but there are many effective treatments available that can help people cope with their symptoms and improve their wellbeing. It is also a global public health issue that affects people of all ages, genders, races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. According to the WHO, more than 264 million people suffer from depression worldwide, making it one of the leading causes of disability and mortality.

Types of depression

There are different types of depression, such as major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, dysthymia, prenatal depression and postnatal depression. Each type has its own symptoms and causes, but they all share some common features. Some of the symptoms of depression include:

  • Low mood or irritability most of the time
  • Loss of energy or motivation
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
Causes of depression

The causes of depression are not fully understood, but they may involve a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Some of the possible causes include:

  • Genetics: depression can run in families and may be influenced by your genes.
  • Brain chemistry: depression may be related to an imbalance of certain chemicals in your brain that affect your mood and emotions.
  • hormones: depression may be triggered by hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy, menopause or thyroid problems.
  • stress: depression may be caused by stressful life events, such as trauma, loss, abuse, illness or relationship problems.
  • Personality: depression may be more likely if you have low self-esteem, are pessimistic, perfectionist or overly dependent on others.
depression statistics

depression is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders, affecting around 1 in 6 adults in the UK. It is also associated with other mental health issues, such as anxiety, stress and loneliness.

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Research shows that women are twice as likely to experience depression than men. However, 15% of women receive treatment for depression, compared to only 9% of men.

Across the UK, rates of depression are still significantly higher than before the pandemic. Around 17% of adults in the UK experienced some form of depression in summer 2021, compared to just 10% before the pandemic.

And depression is not just a public health issue. It also presents significant challenges for organizations.

In the workplace, depression statistics show that:

  • 56% of employees are experiencing symptoms of depression
  • Female employees are 20% more likely to experience symptoms of depression
  • 61% of employees aged 16-24 are experiencing symptoms of depression
  • Only 10% of employees are currently seeking mental health support

*Source: Champion Health

depression treatments

depression is not something that you can just snap out of. It is a serious condition that requires professional help. If you think you may have depression, you should talk to your doctor or a mental health professional as soon as possible. They can diagnose your condition and recommend the best treatment for you. Treatment may include:

  • Medication: Antidepressants are drugs that can help balance your brain chemistry and improve your mood. They may take several weeks to work and may have some side effects. You should not stop taking them without consulting your doctor.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is a type of talking therapy that can help you understand and cope with your thoughts and feelings. It can also help you change your negative patterns of thinking and behaviour that contribute to your depression.
  • Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes can help you manage your depression and prevent relapse.

Some of these lifestyle changes include:

  • Exercise regularly: Exercise can boost your mood and energy levels by releasing endorphins in your brain.
  • Eat healthily: Eating a balanced diet can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function well and cope with stress.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs: Alcohol and drugs can worsen your depression and interfere with your treatment.
  • Get enough sleep: Sleep can help you restore your physical and mental health and regulate your mood.
  • Seek social support: Social support can provide you with emotional comfort and practical help when you are feeling depressed. You can reach out to your family, friends, support groups or online communities for support.

depression can be treated effectively with psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), or behavioural activation (BA), or with antidepressant medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Sometimes, a combination of both therapy and medication is recommended. The choice of treatment depends on the severity and type of depression, as well as the individual’s preferences and circumstances.

depression is a common but serious condition that can affect anyone at any age. It is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It is a medical condition that can be treated with medication, psychotherapy or other methods.

depression and transcendence therapy

Transcendence therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help people with depression achieve a higher level of well-being and fulfilment. It is based on the idea that depression can be overcome by transcending the self and connecting with something greater than oneself, such as nature, spirituality, humanity, or the universe. Transcendence therapy can involve various techniques, such as meditation, mindfulness, structured reminiscence, transcranial magnetic stimulation, or positive psychology interventions. These techniques are designed to enhance self-awareness, reduce negative emotions, increase self-esteem, and foster a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Transcendence therapy can help people with depression to not only survive, but to thrive and reach their full potential.

depression as a trigger for transcendence

depression can also be a catalyst for personal growth and transformation. Some people who experience depression may find meaning and purpose in their suffering, and use it as an opportunity to explore their inner world and discover their true self. They may develop a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for others who are going through similar struggles, and a greater appreciation for the beauty and fragility of life. They may also seek out spiritual or philosophical insights that can help them cope with their condition and transcend their pain.

Transcendence is the state of being beyond the ordinary limitations of physical existence. It can involve experiencing a sense of connection with something greater than oneself, such as nature, God, or the universe. It can also involve achieving a higher level of awareness, wisdom, or creativity that surpasses the normal human capacity. Transcendence can provide a sense of peace, joy, and fulfilment that can counteract the negative effects of depression.

Therefore, depression can lead to transcendence if one can view it as a challenge rather than a curse, and use it as a motivation to grow and evolve as a person. depression can be a dark and difficult journey, but it can also be a path to enlightenment and liberation.

depression theories

The psychological approach to depression is assuming that mental disorders are caused by maladaptive thoughts, emotions and behaviours that interfere with one’s well-being and functioning. There are several theories that underpin this approach, such as:

cognitive theory of depression

cognitive theory of depression: This theory proposes that depression is the result of distorted and negative thinking patterns that lead to low self-esteem, hopelessness and helplessness. According to this theory, depressed people tend to have irrational beliefs, such as “I am worthless”, “I can never do anything right” or “The world is a hostile place”. These beliefs influence their perception of reality and their emotional reactions to events.

Behavioural theory of depression

Behavioural theory of depression: This theory suggests that depression is the outcome of learned helplessness, which is the tendency to give up and stop trying when faced with repeated failures or uncontrollable situations. According to this theory, depressed people have a low sense of self-efficacy and expect negative outcomes from their actions. They also tend to avoid or withdraw from rewarding activities that could improve their mood and motivation.

Interpersonal theory of depression

Interpersonal theory of depression: This theory emphasizes the role of social relationships and interactions in the development and maintenance of depression. According to this theory, depressed people have difficulties in communicating their needs and feelings, establishing and maintaining satisfying relationships, and coping with interpersonal conflicts and losses. They also tend to experience loneliness, rejection and isolation from others.

Psychodynamic theory of depression

Psychodynamic theory of depression: This theory focuses on the unconscious conflicts and childhood experiences that underlie depression. According to this theory, depressed people have unresolved issues with their parents or caregivers, such as anger, guilt or attachment problems. They also tend to repress or deny their true feelings and desires, which leads to a loss of identity and meaning in life.

Biological theory of depression

The biological theory of depression is based on the idea that depression is caused by “imbalances or dysfunctions of certain neurotransmitters” in the brain, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine

Further reading

Here are some links for further reading

Treatments for depression – Mental Health UK

How to cope with depression – NHS

Treatment – Clinical depression – NHS

What treatments are there for depression? – MIND


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