Even though the issue of mental health has grabbed some public attention leading to better awareness in recent years, it continues to be a major source of social and health burden for individuals coping with mental illnesses. Despite the increased prevalence of depression, one of the most common mental disorders in the United States that affects over 15 million adults, there is little understanding about the true nature of this mental disorder.
A number of taboos and stigma attached to depression and other forms of mental disorders instill the negative feeling of self-doubt among patients that significantly undermine the scope of treatment and recovery. Though mental disorders are treatable diseases, the challenges witnessed from the social perspective prevent people from openly sharing their intrinsic fears and views pertaining to their mental disorders.
Although there is no denying that the individuals who are diagnosed with severe depression are ill, many fail to reckon that the disorder occurs due to the changes in the chemistry of the brain. Instead, depression is commonly misunderstood as a character flaw or a lack of will to recover. Therefore, it is essential to understand that mental disorders are as dangerous as other chronic illnesses that inflict a range of mental and physical repercussions.
Given below are some important insights into depression:
- More evident in some personalities: Anybody and everybody has the potential to develop depression regardless of his or her gender, ethnicity, age, social status, etc. However, some personalities, perfectionists, introverts and creative people are comparatively more vulnerable to depression. Such people are more hypersensitive and observant than the rest, as well as they engage in constant contemplation and rumination.
- Depressed individuals do not always have to look depressed: Individuals with depression are good at concealing the symptoms of the disorder. In fact, they are often high-functioning individuals. This could be partially attributed to the stigma surrounding mental illnesses that forces them mask their depressive symptoms and avoid talking openly about them.
- Compromises internal body clock: Everybody is born with an internal body clock that tells him or her when to wake up, eat, sleep, etc. In individuals with depression, this body clock turns upside down literally. As a result, the brain of the people going through depression may confuse morning with nighttime. Besides such confusions, their sleep and hunger hormones get adversely affected and disrupted. In fact, stark changes in appetite and weight loss are often seen with the onset of depression.
- Changes the structure of the brain: According to a study published by the Yale University, individuals with depression lose some of the connections in brain cells that play a vital role in controlling cognition and emotion. These changes reduce the size of the brain, which was more evident in individuals severely depressed for a long period.
- Accelerates aging: Depression is commonly associated with diseases that impact older adults, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. However, depression can also increase the rate of cellular aging, especially in individuals who have been chronically depressed for a long time. These individuals display the shorter length of telomeres (a DNA sequence found in chromosomes) compared to their healthy peers or individuals who have to cope with depression for a short time.
- Alters the perception of pain: An individual going through depression experiences the severe levels of physical discomfort or pain, such as headaches, backache, stomachache, etc. The heightened perception of pain is owing to the reason that both depression and pain share a common chemical pathway in the brain that is affected by the same neurotransmitters. The prior research on the subject have highlighted that the improvement in physical pain can also significantly improve the symptoms of depression and vice versa.
Road to recovery
Depression is a serious mental disorder that leaves a person withdrawn from family and friends. A person with depression may also encounter suicidal thoughts that adversely affect his or her psychological well-being. If the condition is left untreated, it leads to detrimental effects on the quality of life.