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What can really help with depression
Scientific studies have shown that at least 15 percent of the population will develop depression, which must be treated, or should be said, in the course of their life, because the mental illnesses are not recognized too often. Experts explain how to recognize symptoms and how to help those affected.
More and more people suffer from mental illnesses
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people with depression has increased significantly worldwide. In Germany and the EU too, more and more people suffer from mental illness. According to the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry (MPI), studies have shown that at least 15 percent of the population will develop depression in the course of their lives. This refers to those diseases that impair so severely that they have to be treated, or better said, because all too often depression is not recognized. The MPI experts explain on their website how to recognize symptoms and how to help those affected.
According to the MPI, depression can take many different forms. The disease can start insidiously or appear suddenly, like a bolt from the blue.
The typical symptoms are sad mood disorders, sleep disorders, poor concentration, tiredness, irritability, slow movement, loss of appetite and weight loss, as well as hopelessness and the inability to emotionally participate in events in the immediate vicinity.
There are often fluctuations in the day, typically the depression is more pronounced in the morning than in the afternoon.
The interest in activities that are normally positively toned has died down, there is almost always a lack of sexual desire or even inability to engage in sexual activity.
In severe cases, hopelessness is so pronounced that the will to live is extinguished and suicidal thoughts occur, up to the planning and execution of suicide attempts.
Rare forms of the disease
A rare form, which mainly occurs in women, is the very short-term acute depressive mood, which often lasts only a day or a week or two and then subsides again on its own.
Chronic depression is another rarely occurring form in which, despite all therapeutic efforts, only a slight improvement can be achieved.
Another special form of depression, which occurs in around one percent of the population, is manic-depressive illness. In addition to depressive episodes, so-called manic episodes can also be observed.
In a way, these manic episodes are the opposite of the depressive episode. The mood is constantly elevated, carefree cheerful to irritated.
Who gets sick?
According to the experts at the MPI, depression can occur for the first time at any age, but the full picture of depression is most common in middle age.
Studies have shown that the harbingers of depression can be recognized early in life, but not as depression, but as anxiety disorders.
It is now known that young people with anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks, have an increased risk of developing depression later.
It is only in old age that the risk of developing depression for the first time is reduced. However, it is not known whether depression in old age is actually hidden behind some forms of dementia that is common in old age.
It is striking that women are diagnosed with depression more often, but this fact can be explained above all by the easier forms of expression.
It should also be borne in mind that men are more reluctant to reveal depressive symptoms and to go to the doctor to get treatment for depression.
Relationship between genetic factors and depression
According to health experts, depression in most cases has more than one cause.
The mental disorder can be favored by stress, stressful life events or diseases such as thyroid diseases or Parkinson's.
In addition, it has long been known that genes play an important role in the development of mental illness.
Just a few months ago, an international team of researchers was able to identify 44 gene locations that are associated with severe depression.
According to the MPI, it is assumed that the genetic proportions for typical depression are 50 percent, while the genetic proportions for manic-depressive illness make up over 80 percent.
The surest indication of whether you have a predisposition to the disease is the presence of depression in biological relatives.
However, you should not be overly disturbed by this because depression is not passed on after a simple inheritance process.
It is important to know that there is a genetic risk from family stress and then to pay attention to the appearance of early signs of illness, such as sleep disorders, vegetative changes, anxiety attacks and to counteract them early.
Treatment with medication
According to the national care guidelines, depression is treated with antidepressants and / or psychotherapy.
Studies have also shown that treatment with such drugs is effective.
But it is also known that mild depression often passes without specific treatment. According to the MPI, there is no alternative to antidepressants for severe depression.
These drugs are not sedatives, according to the experts, do not lead to habituation or addiction, and have no serious side effects.
However, restlessness, sweating, weight gain and occasionally sexual dysfunction can occur, especially at the start of treatment.
In addition to antidepressants, depression therapy also sometimes uses benzodiazepines and neuroleptics.
In the majority of cases, psychotherapeutic support for the patient is urgently needed.
According to the MPI, the basis of every depression treatment is an understanding and supportive medical consultation with the creation of an overall treatment plan. For mild depressive moods, this can be sufficient as the only therapy method.
The most important form of psychotherapy is the so-called cognitive behavior therapy. This includes the correction of negative reality and self-assessment, the step-by-step development of activities based on the reinforcer principle, the promotion of self-confidence and social competence as well as coping with everyday problems.
The goal of any depression therapy is always the complete restoration of the mental state.
Important to know: People with depression also have an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, especially diabetes mellitus. Therefore, the prevention of such diseases should also be kept in mind.
What friends and relatives should consider
The Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry points out that friends and relatives can also help those affected. You should know how to properly deal with depressed people.
You must be aware that depression is not something that can be overcome through willpower or by following advice.
Symptoms such as negativity and irritability as well as inactivity and supposed self-reliance of the patient must not lead to the relatives losing understanding and patience and turning away from the “ungrateful” patient.
Relatives and friends have to learn to develop an understanding of the patient's inability to achieve something on their own and not to misinterpret the emotional distance as an emotional avert.
It is also important that the patient is not overwhelmed by "good advice" and, conversely, relatives are not forced into a kind of co-therapist status in which they are in turn overwhelmed.
On its website, the MPI also deals with herbal products for the treatment of depression.
According to the experts, according to the current state of knowledge, there is nothing to be said against attempting therapy with St. John's wort for mild depression.
However, there are some side effects that can be serious: St. John's wort causes diarrhea and an increased tendency to severe sunburn.
In addition, St. John's wort intake can limit the effectiveness of other drugs. And according to experts, some preparations are unsuitable anyway.
The experts at the MPI advise against the use of Bach flower extracts, gingko preparations and other herbal products for depression treatment. (ad)