Depressive Disorders or Depression

Depression is a clinical condition characterized by a feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities that were previously considered to be pleasant. In order to be considered a disturbance rather than a normal reaction, the symptoms must persist for at least two weeks and are usually accompanied by changes in appetite and sleep patterns, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, indecisiveness, suicidal thoughts, or feelings of worthlessness, impotence and despair.23

Sadness is an emotion that is part of normal psychic life. It’s a normal reaction to more difficult times, but it usually passes in a short time. A depression is something that has a serious impact in life. It can cause suffering for both the patient and the people around him. It is a disorder, which can be serious, and not a sign of weakness or character flaw.24

Depression affects around 20% of the Portuguese population throughout life and is considered the main cause of disability and the second cause of loss of healthy years of life. One in four people worldwide suffers, has suffered or will suffer from depression.25

Different factors influence the risk of depression, such as changes in neurotransmitters (chemical substances responsible for communication between neurons), genetic factors, personality traits and environmental factors. While some genes increase resilience – the ability to recover from adverse situations – and protect against depression, other genes increase this risk. Experiences such as trauma or abuse during childhood and stress during adulthood can increase the risk. However, the same situations of stress and loss can trigger depression in one person and not in another. Environmental factors also play an important role, as a good family environment and healthy social relationships can increase resilience.26

About half of people who have an episode of depression recover and do not relapse.26 However, after three episodes, the risk of recurrence approaches 100% if there is no preventive treatment.27

Depression, even in the most severe cases, can be treated and the sooner the treatment starts, the more effective it is. Most patients experience improvement in their symptoms when treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.26