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Depression in the Contemporary Society

Introduction

Depression is a common condition, affecting both men and women, young people, and adults. Public awareness about depression has increased in recent years, with more attention dedicated to the need for addressing this serious mental health illness and less stigma surrounding it. At least fifteen percent of the population in the United States suffers from depression. This illness impacts not only the emotional wellbeing of individuals but also their physical health, often causing fatigue and sleep problems. This paper will examine depression, its symptoms, and causes, and the differences in the way men and women experience this mental health disorder.

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Background Information

Depression is a type of mental illness, which in essence, is a mood disorder, affecting the person’s wellbeing both physically and mentally. The main consequence of a major depressive disorder is a consistently low mood, which cannot be explained by a specific reason (Ellis, Depression). Moreover, this type of mood is persistent over many weeks, and a person usually cannot get rid of it. Ellis states that some common symptoms include lack of interest in anything, even the activities that a person used to enjoy, feeling of sadness or hopelessness, inability to sleep, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts. Among some physical symptoms, an individual can experience weight loss or extreme weight gain.

This is a common condition, affecting a large portion of the population in the United States. According to Ellis, the current estimations suggest that from 15% to 30% of the population is affected by depression. Although it impacts both men and women, the latter are more often diagnosed with this disorder. Therefore, this disorder is characterized by a variety of symptoms that disrupt the wellbeing of an individual and affect his or her day today

functioning. It is crucial for a mental health specialist to diagnose depression because some of the symptoms overlap with over conditions. Ellis states that some of the mentioned symptoms can be explained by “substance abuse, medications, or an illness.” Depression, however, persists for several weeks or even longer and disrupts the normal functioning of an individual. Therefore, a mental health specialist can assess the symptoms and determine whether they can be explained by other conditions or not, to diagnose major depression.

Depression is a complex issue, which includes a variety of causes and impacts different systems of one’s body. According to Ellis, depression affects not only a person’s mind but also his or her body. The most significant impact of this disease is that over time it changes the brain, making the symptoms more frequent and severe. Long-term consequences of depression include inadequate nutrition, bad habits such as substance abuse, issues with weight management, and other problems related to inadequate decision-making capabilities of a person affected by depression (Depression). In the worst cases, it can lead to suicide, which is why the condition cannot be left untreated.

Effect of Depression on Brain

Although the current research does not answer the question of why depression occurs in the first place, it is evident that the causes are mainly biological and brain functioning plays a significant role (Ellis). Major depression changes a person’s brain, which makes the condition even more difficult to deal with because the symptoms become more severe. Cortisol is a hormone released by the hippocampus located in the brain. Mainly, this hormone is released during stress, which is also the case when a person has depression (Schimelpfening). However, unlike with the typical day to day stress, a person with depression experiences these symptoms every day, meaning that the inflow of cortisol is continuous. This adversely affects the ability of the brain to produce new neurons and the shrinking of the hippocampus (Ellis). As a result, an individual with depression also experiences problems with memory.Another adverse effect of the continuous cortisol release is the amygdala’s increase in size. Normally, this part of the brain regulates emotional responses, however, when enlarged it can cause problems with sleep (Ellis). Moreover, the amygdala affects the release of other hormones and can change an individual’s activity levels. This is why people with depression often experience fatigue and inability to sleep properly.

Information in the brain is the topic of debate in the context of depression. Mainly, it is unclear whether the inflammation is caused by depression or vice versa. However, Ellis states that many studies have shown the increased levels of brain inflammation in individuals with depression. Moreover, these differences are very significant and worsen over time. For example, Ellis states that in one study, “people who have struggled with depression for more than ten years have 30 percent more inflammation.” Therefore, although the role of inflammation is not entirely clear in the process of depression development, it is evident that there is a link between the two occurrences.

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Brain inflammation affects a person’s ability to perform day to day tasks. Mainly, it affects the neurotransmitters, which are responsible for mood regulation (Ellis). As a result, an individual with depression experiences low mood, consistently over extensive periods. Moreover, neurotransmitters are also engaged in enabling the processes of regulating memory and learning capabilities (Ellis). Similar to other consequences of depression, these two abilities are negatively affected by brain inflammation. Finally, major depression is linked to the lack of oxygen in the brain. This condition is referred to as hypoxia, and having it for long periods can cause some damage to the brain, affecting learning and memory (Ellis).

Depression and Body

As was mentioned, depression changes one’s brain, enhancing the severity of the condition. Apart from the impact on the brain, depression also causes physical symptoms. Ellis states that it results in “fatigue, digestive issues, pain, and other complications related to the poor decisions.” One example is the effect of depression on eating, a person with this illness can feel the urge to eat more than usual or eat very little. The impact on one’s physical health is the result of such a change in one’s eating behavior – these can be conditions associated with obesity or adversities caused by unhealthy amounts of weight lost by an individual. Therefore, one of the major effects of depression is the change in one’s appetite, which subsequently leads to associated health conditions.

Chronic pain, which is persistent pain in a part of the body is linked to this disorder as well. This is a prolonged feeling of pain that can manifest as head pain, chest pain, joint issues, and others. One issue with depression-induced pain is that it usually has no underlying cause, although there is a hypothesis that depression can make one less tolerable to pain (Depression). Next, the risk of developing heart disease and stroke significantly increases for people who have depression. One hypothesis that can explain this is the increase of clotting factors as a result of this condition and changing heart rate, which contribute to developing severe heart impairments (Ellis). Therefore, depression is dangerous because it impairs the physical health of a person, leading to serious problems with one’s health.

Gastrointestinal problems is another physical issue that can be a result of depression. According to Ellis, “the gut actually has a major connection to mood and mental health and is sometimes referred to as the body’s second brain.” This is why the gastrointestinal system plays such an important role in understanding depression and helping an individual relieve its symptoms. Moreover, researchers “have some evidence that depression susceptibility is related to diet, both directly—through inadequate consumption of nutrients such as omega-3 fats” (Depression). Thus, more research is necessary to explain the effect that one’s nutrition has on the likelihood of developing depression because there is a link between the two, and more insight into the topic can help treat depression more effectively.

Different Ways Depression Affects Men and Women

Depression can affect anyone, men and women alike, as well as individuals of different age groups. However, Nierenberg reports that are some substantial differences in the way depression affects different genders and the way people experience it. For example, Ellis argues that women are more often diagnosed with depression than men, and Nierenberg states that women “have about twice the risk of developing the condition as men.” One explanation for this difference is the disruption of brain development and the balance of hormones as a result of issues arising during the brain development of a fetus.

This problem results in increased vulnerability for mood changes, and conditions such as depression primarily affect one’s mood. Women often have other disorders when experiencing depression. Moreover, some types of depression can only affect women, such as depression occurring during “pregnancy, the postpartum period, perimenopause, and the menstrual cycle” (Depression in Women: 5 Things You Should Know). Moreover, each woman can experience different effects associated with this condition. Therefore, although depression affects both genders, due to the specifics of biological development women are more likely to develop it when compared to men.

One danger is that men may be less sensitive to their emotional wellbeing, resulting in an inability to recognize the mood disorder. According to Nierenberg, this occurs because women are more likely to ruminate on their feelings when compared to men. Moreover, men usually choose to distract themselves from negative emotions, unlike women, which helps them overcome the development of depression. Thus, another reason why women are more often diagnosed with depression, then men is the inclination of the former to recognize their feelings and low moods.

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There are other factors that distinguish the way men and women experience depression. As mentioned, men can have a difficultly recognizing the mood change. However, Nierenberg also states that others not recognize these changes in men. Moreover, males are at a greater risk of committing suicide when compared to women. This difference is connected to the symptoms that may progress and remain unnoticed for a while, resulting in damage to the brain that was previously discussed. Additionally, depression in males often manifests with substance abuse, mainly alcohol (Nierenberg). Finally, both genders may respond to treatment differently, which highlights the need to work with a skillful medical professional who is aware of these differences and can adjust the medication.

Treatment

Depression can be treated, and this can reverse some of the damage caused to the brain, which makes the symptoms more severe the symptoms and helps an individual return to a normal life. Ellis recommends dedicated residential treatment as one of the best options. This approach allows a person to take as much time as needed, as well as the dedicated space and support of professionals to overcome depression. A combination of different treatment methods is used for this condition. Usually, both medication and therapy are applied to relieve the symptoms (Ellis). The antidepression medication aims to adjust the brain chemicals and reduce inflammation, which should help treat the condition.

Conclusion

Overall, this paper examines the issue of depression and its impact on the mind and body of an individual. The condition causes one’s brain to change, mainly impacting the release of cortisol, which is usually released as a response to stress. Continuous exposure to cortisol causes changes in one’s brain, primarily impacting the development of new neurons. Moreover, depression affects the memory and learning functions of the brain and impairs one’s ability to learn. Physically, depression increases the risk of developing heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and having issues with overeating and undereating. Treatment for major depression usually comprises of medication and therapy. It is vital to remember that although depression affects men and women alike, women are diagnosed with it more often.

Works Cited

Ellis, Mary Ellen. “How Major Depression Affects The Brain And Body – Why Residential Treatment Can Help – Bridges To Recovery.” Bridges to Recovery. 

Depression.” Psychology Today. 

Depression in Women: 5 Things You Should Know“. Nimh.

Nierenberg, Cari. “7 Ways Depression Differs In Men And Women.LiveScience. 

Schimelpfening, Nancy. “The Role of Cortisol in Depression.” Verywell Mind. 

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StudyCorgi. (2022, April 14). Depression in the Contemporary Society. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/depression-in-the-contemporary-society/

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