One of the most common mental disorders in the United Kingdom is depression. According to scientific research by Mental Health Foundation, 19.4 percent of people above 16 in the UK were depressed. The depression is caused by a combination of factors that may be psychological, environmental, biological and genetic. Regardless of the cause, it is always important to diagnosing depression early since a bout of depression often makes you more likely to relapse in the future.
Depression afflicts people of all ages, though adults are more likely to suffer from depression. However, in recent times, depression has also been reported in adolescents and even children though in such instances it presents as agitation and high irritability. Many children who present high levels of anxiety will have a higher preclusion to chronic anxiety and mood disorders in adulthood.
For persons in middle age or older, depression is typically accompanied by other chronic medical conditions that may include Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Persons with chronic illnesses tend to have worse instances of depression. This could be as a result of medications that may have depression as one of their side effects. Knowing about chronic illnesses and medications can help in making a diagnosis before it happens.
Risk Factors for Depression
Some people are more susceptible to depression than others, which makes early diagnosis and prevention critical. To make an early diagnosis of depression, you need to understand the risk factors for depression. You can then be vigilant to spot any symptoms and nip them in the bud before the situation progresses into full-blown major depression. Risk factors for depression include:
- Significant Life Events: If you are are going through or have just gone through major life events such as acute stress, medical concerns, financial issues, work issue, divorce bereavement or strained relationships with family and friends, you are more at risk of depression.
- Personality and Genetic factors: If you have close relatives and family members with a history of depression, you are more susceptible.
- History of Coping Strategies: If you have a history of bad coping strategies such as resorting to substance abuse, you are more likely to get into depression if you do not seek medical attention.
- Childhood Trauma: Childhood trauma may be in the form of physical or emotional injuries sustained during your childhood. If you have been the victim of childhood trauma, your response to stress and fear is likely altered and this could be a predictor of depression in adulthood.
- Substance Abuse: This may include both recreational and prescription drugs including alcohol, amphetamines, interferon, and beta blockers. If you use any prescription or recreational drugs for chronic conditions as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, you may be more susceptible to bouts of chronic depression.
Understanding the risks of depression can help you make an early diagnosis so that you can prevent a major depressive episode. For instance, if you know that you have chronic pain syndrome it becomes easier to make a diagnosis based on the early presentation of symptoms. You can then use that information to make a self-diagnosis and then find help.
Common Symptoms of Depression
- To make an early diagnosis of depression needs you to know your history of risk factors, which you can then apply to your symptoms: Symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of Hopelessness and Helplessness – If you start exhibiting uncharacteristic pessimism and a bleak outlook on life you may just be on the path to depression.
- Loss of Interest in Life and Self Loathing – Sudden loss of the ability to feel pleasure and joy in social activities, pastimes, and hobbies. The beginning stages of depression will also present as strongly criticizing yourself for perceived mistakes and faults.
- Changes in Sleep patterns and Loss of Energy – Sudden change in your waking and sleeping times including a proclivity to sleep in that comes out of nowhere. Watch out for sluggish, and fatigued behaviour, which may indicate the onset of depression.
- Irritability, Anger, and Loss of Concentration – If you increasingly exhibit signs of violence, restlessness, and agitation at the smallest of things, have trouble remembering things, making decisions, or loss of focus, you may just be in the early stages of depression.
- Reckless Behavior – Early depressive symptoms may manifest in substance abuse and tendency to engage in dangerous behaviour such as reckless driving or dangerous sports.
Diagnosing Depression for Different Ages and Genders
How depression manifests is different for men and women, teens and older adults. The symptoms to look out for to make a diagnosis will also vary depending on these differences.
Depression in Men
Men are more likely to exhibit symptoms such as loss of interest in hobbies and work, sleep issues, irritability, and fatigue rather than hopelessness and self-loathing. They also tend to show anger, substance abuse, reckless behaviour, and aggression.
Depression in Women
Women may be more likely to exhibit weight gain, overeating, excessive sleeping, and guilt. Diagnosing depression in women also has to take into account the hormonal effects of menopause, pregnancy, postpartum depression, and menstruation.
Depression in Older Adults
Diagnosing depression in older adults often has to do with physical symptoms rather than the emotional. If you are an older person you may exhibit memory issues, unexplained pains and aches, and fatigue among others.
Mental health is a big concern that afflicts a significant number of people in the UK. Given current trends, it is inevitable that you could have to deal with a relative or patient dealing with depression at one time or another. Having the knowledge on the risk factors and symptoms of depression can help you diagnose depression and deal with it before it starts. By being proactive, you can prevent the development of depression which if let to fester could increase your likelihood of having more depressive episodes in future.