In this Health Hub article, we explore the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of depression.
Depression is a condition that over time can impact on your behaviour, thinking, emotions and physical health. While most people can experience feeling down, the effects of depression are generally present for at least two weeks.
Facts & Figures
- A total of 300,000 (7.7%) of the Irish population suffer from depression.
- 44% of people in Ireland have a direct experience of mental health problems (either their own or within family/friends).
- 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men will experience depression at some point in their lives.
- Approximately 10% of adolescents (13-19) have a major depressive disorder.
Signs & Symptoms Of Depression
Depression can cause both physical and psychological effects which can include the following:
- Feeling down, anxious or tearful most of the day, every day
- No longer showing an interest or experiences pleasure from things that you once enjoyed
- Weight loss not due to intentional dieting or weight gain
- Being unable to sleep or sleeping too much
- Carrying out purposeless physical activity e.g. fidgeting or pacing
- Unexplained low energy levels
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Inability to focus on tasks and make decisions
- Suicidal thoughts
What Causes Depression?
While the exact cause of depression is unknown, there are some factors which are known to contribute.
- Biological differences – serotonin and dopamine are chemicals which play a key role in depression. If the levels are too low this can result in depression.
- Depression can be triggered by a stressful event e.g the loss of a family member or developing a chronic illness.
- Hormonal changes e.g. menopause.
- Genetics also play a key role. Depression is more common in people who have a blood relative who has the condition.
If you think you may have depression it is important to make an appointment to see your doctor or to speak with a healthcare professional. There are many different treatments depending on the cause and severity of the condition. This way both you and the healthcare professional can decide on the best treatment plan for you.
- Talking Therapies
- Oral Medication
Medicines To Treat Depression
Anti-depressants work by increasing the amount of certain hormones in your brain that affect mood and energy levels. They do this by stopping the hormones you already have from being broken down, meaning they can hang around longer in your brain. The two main hormones involved are serotonin and noradrenaline.
Common Side Effects of Anti-Depressants
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight gain
- Decreased libido
Advice From The Pharmacist
- Avoid alcohol – alcohol is a depressant.
- Anti-depressants can take time to work (up to 4 weeks), so you may not feel better right away.
- As the body gets used to the new medication you may feel not quite yourself. While this is common, if you find this is difficult to manage speak to your doctor as they can prescribe you something to help you through the initial phase.
- Don’t stop your medication abruptly. Just as the dose of your medicine was increased over a number of weeks, the same needs to be done when coming off the medication.
Supports Available In Ireland
Fiona is a pharmacist at Healthwave and graduated from RCSI.