Even depression has a solution; The hidden science behind the disorder

A ‘psychotically depressed’ person who attempts to kill herself doesn’t do so out of mere ‘hopelessness’ and surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. Depression is not a temporary condition that heals slowly; it only worsens with time. It is not a disease; it is a mental disorder that impacts the brain.  WHO’s global health sector estimated over 5 crore depression cases in India in the year 2015. India now holds a record of most reported cases of depression and suicides.

The total case count of depression increased by 18.4% between 2005 and 2015. What is even more disturbing is, according to the fact sheet out of 7,88,000 people who died due to suicides in 2015 in India, majority were the depressed youths between 15-29 years of age only.

Research suggests that depression is not imaginary or “all in someone’s head”. It doesn’t spring up suddenly due to acute personal or social problems. Prolonged exposure to such atmosphere can enhance depression. But there is more to it. There are several scientific factors contributing to depression. Research reveals that factors that contribute to the onset of depression include genetics, changes in hormone levels, certain medical conditions and stress.

These factors alone or in combination can precipitate changes in brain chemistry that result in depression and anxiety disorders. As the statistics confirm, an elevation in the number of depression related cases, it can be concluded that some factors that contribute to the state of the disorder, were less existent previously and are prevailing at a much higher rate in today’s generation. According to latest findings; sedentary lifestyle, which is a tradition in the modern youth, is linked with anxiety and depression.

Deakin University’s Research reveale in their study that sitting idle, watching TV, looking at the phone etc. not only contribute to lack of physical activity, but they can raise depression levels. Across continents, people with more sedentary behavior are 25% more likely to be depressed than those who are physically active. 

Increasing health risks is getting us more inclined towards prescription drugs without knowing their side effects. Some drugs like isotretinoin, the antiviral interferon-alpha, contraceptives, asthma medication Singulair, corticosteroids and some medications related to blood pressure can increase chances of depression. Since it is found that with time, consumption of these drugs has increased, it can be concluded that these also contribute towards increasing depression.                           

Not only social loss, family issues and drugs; the basic unit of cells; the genes also play an equivalent role in depression. It is thought that clinical depression is a complex trait; there are probably multiple genes that exert small effects, rather than a single gene contributing to the disorder. Someone having a family member with major depression history has 20-30% increased risk of developing depression. With the increasing rate of depression today, the future generation is expected to have every second individual suffering from the disorder due to their family heredity.

Even depression has a solution. Depressed youth tend to step into drug and alcohol addiction. But no drugs, medication can treat depression alone, instead intensify it. Lifestyle changes are simple, powerful tools that support treatment of depression. Sometimes it is all that is needed to overpower depression.

Physical exercise, healthy nutrition, enough sleep, stress free life with improved social connections and psychological rehabilitation are enough to overcome depression and lead a healthy normal life. Conquering depression demands lifelong commitment; after all there are far better things ahead than anything left behind.

Author: Upasana Saha, Department of Biotechnology, School of Sciences, Garden City University, Bengaluru, India.