Causes: Heredity: depression has a tendency to run in families. Learned Response: if a person has experienced a lot of stress or losses in life, they learn that life is difficult and so adopt an attitude of depression and helplessness. Personality: some personality types are more prone to depression; for example, perfectionists.
Symptoms: Loss of appetite, weight loss, feelings of hopelessness and despair inexplicable to the person experiencing it. These feelings may lead to suicide attempts or self harm. These people set very high standards for themselves, while others find it difficult to adjust their ideas and standards. They are easily depressed if they are let down.
Cause: chemical imbalance in the brain.
Treatment: professional counselling, medication such as antidepressants.
Women with this depression find it extremely difficult to cope with the everyday demands of life and this can lead them to feel inadequate and incompetent in their ability to care for their baby. The cause of this depression is unknown but family dynamics, increased responsibility due to the birth and hormonal changes all contribute.
Bipolar disorder (manic depression)
Causes: This type of depression is a biological illness due to a chemical imbalance of lithium carbonate in the brain. Affects approximately 1% of the population and is treatable. Heredity: there is clear evidence that bipolar is genetically transferred.
Symptoms: Elevated mood, reduced need for sleep can be felt, rapid thinking and speech, grandiose beliefs and plans. During manic stages, particularly where delusions or hallucinations come into play, manic depression may be confused or misdiagnosed as schizophrenia due to the similarity in apparent symptoms and behavior.
Treatment: In the depressive stage of this disorder antidepressant medication is very effective. In the mania phase it is often difficult to persuade people that they need treatment and in some situations it may be necessary to admit the person to hospital against their will.
In acute or severe stages of mania, antipsychotic medications such as lithium carbonate are used to stabilize mood, together with tranquilizers to give the person’s body a chance to rest. Lithium is used to stabilize mood generally and to reduce the frequency and severity of manic and depressed phases. Psychotherapy can also be used in conjunction with medication.
Acute and chronic: In the acute stage, the sufferer is out of touch with reality (psychotic) and may hold false beliefs (delusions), hear voices (hallucinations) and engage in bizarre thinking. In the chronic stage, there is a breakdown of personality.
The sufferer’s emotional reactions appear insensitive or blunted; they withdraw from social contact and show an increasing lack of will power, drive and initiative. Sufferers are very seldom dangerous. Where violence does occur, it is most likely to be at the point when a person suffering from schizophrenia is not mentally aware of reality.
Thoughts and perceptions are disordered but general information is processed normally. Communication is possible. Social support is very important at times when the person is undergoing a particularly intense schizophrenic phase whereby reality has subsided from the person’s consciousness. At these times, the sufferer must be cared for however best suitable and appropriate to the individual.
Causes: The exact cause of schizophrenia is not known. Biochemical Factors: Neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin are essentially electrical impulses within the brain that jump between nerves and send messages throughout the body. For people with schizophrenia, it is believed that for some reason these electrical impulses are “out of whack” so to speak.
It is common knowledge that drugs such as LSD and marijuana can elicit or induce an artificial state of mental functioning very similar to some schizophrenic symptoms i.e. hallucinations, delusions and drug induced psychosis. Age factors: Usually, schizophrenia begins in adolescence or early adulthood, in the person’s teens or 20’s.