Is Depression a Biological Disease?
Many people mistakenly believe depression to simply be a “bad mood.” Someone feeling sad or listless may complain that he or she feels depressed. Sometimes the term is even used as a synonym for boredom. Actual depression is a very serious psychological disorder. It is caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain that manage emotions, impulse control and the formation and recollection of memories. Certain chemicals, such as serotonin, may be unavailable to the brain, or the physiological process of using available serotonin may be compromised. Thus, depression is definitely a biological disease that can have significant physiological and emotional repercussions if left untreated.
Causes of Depression
Identifying the causes of depression can be very challenging. Any of the following circumstances can lead to the chemical imbalances that cause the disease:
- Genetic predisposition toward depression
- Prolonged anxiety
- Substance abuse
- Concussion or traumatic brain injury
- Natural hormonal changes
In some cases, the disorder develops over time while in others it drastically affects a person very suddenly. There is a strong hereditary link to depression. Individuals with a family history of depression are at an increased risk of becoming depressed themselves.
Symptoms of Depression
While persistent sadness and frequent crying are potential symptoms of depression, there are many other symptoms as well. The following are possible symptoms of depression:
- Emotional numbness
- Cutting or other self-harm
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Loss of interest in previously important activities or relationships
- Disruptions in sleep levels, including too much or too little sleep
- Sexual dysfunction
- Lack of motivation
- Social anxiety
In some cases, people move between times of major depression and times of extreme mania. This condition, known as bipolar disorder, is particularly dangerous and difficult to treat.
Treating Depression Biologically and Emotionally
While there are certainly several medical options for the treatment of depression, most of the drugs used in this treatment are habit-forming and addictive. Some patients respond incredibly well to anti-depressant drugs for a short time and then are able to be weaned off of them. Some will become hooked on anti-depressants and will need specialized treatment to get clean. However, most people who take the medications precisely as prescribed and discontinue use as early as possible will not become addicted.
Although the disorder is physiological in nature, there are several types of counseling and psychotherapy that can reduce the suffering associated with it. Cognitive and dialectical behavior therapies are both frequently effective therapeutic tools in the arsenal of weapons against this disease. Many people suffering from depression can develop coping and emotional management tools that empower them to drive their feelings instead of being driven by them.
24 Hour Depression Helpline
If you are feeling depressed or someone you love is exhibiting symptoms of depression, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline. Our counselors can answer your questions and can connect you with the best available depression treatment right away. Depression rarely corrects itself. Many people silently wrestle with this disease because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves or to appear weak. The truth is that depression is a biological disease that is not entirely unlike the flu or cancer. No one should feel ashamed to seek out treatment for one of those diseases, nor should one feel ashamed to seek help for depression.