Depression or major depressive disorder refers to persistent and severe mood disturbance that requires treatment. It can be secondary to a medical condition or its treatment (known as “organic mood disorder”). The prevalence of depression is twice as high in people with other illnesses compared to otherwise healthy patients. Some general medical causes, such as thyroid disorders can mimic the symptoms of depression so ruling them out is crucial before starting treatment.
Depression presents as both physical and mental symptoms. The physical symptoms of depression include pessimism, guilt, low self-esteem, loss of interest in activities otherwise found enjoyable, and suicidal thoughts. Some somatic symptoms include reduced appetite, weight changes, fatigue, and loss of libido. Detection of core psychological symptoms is important in patients with physical symptoms of depression.
Depression is one of the most important risk factors that can lead to suicide. However, it must be remembered that depression is treatable, and between 80 and 90% of people respond well to conventional treatment modalities. Some treatment methods include antidepressant medications that help correct chemical disturbances in the brain, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that essentially rewires the way one processes negative thoughts, and, in patients with severe depression unresponsive to other treatment modalities, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) which electrically stimulates certain areas of the brain.