Available literature demonstrates that depression is not only the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the United States and other developed countries, but also the leading cause of death globally. Depressive disorders, such as major depressive disorder, postpartum depression, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder, among others, are believed to affect about 18.8 million American adults or an estimated 9.5% of the American population aged 18 years and older in a given year (George et al, 2011; Murray & Fortinberry, 2005).
It is also believed that everyone, no matter their race, religion or social economic status, will at some time in their life be affected by depression, either due to their own problems or problems associated with others (Ning et al, 2011).
In spite of the fact that governments and agencies across the world have made significant steps in the fight against depression, there is compelling evidence that we are yet to be fully effective in translating, disseminating, and expediting the adoption of the already existing evidence-based knowledge on depression to improve outcomes for individuals at risk (Soremekun et al, 2010).
It is against this background that the present paper aims to discuss the disorder with a view to illuminate knowledge about its symptoms, risk factors, and neurological systems involved. A review of two articles on depression will be included to reinforce this particular discussion.
Description, Symptoms & Risk Factors of Depression
Findley et al (2011) describe depression as a medical mental sickness that inarguably affect some or all aspects of an individual’s functioning, particularly in the context of being unable to perform duties and responsibilities that such an individual was once able to perform.
The World Health Organization, on its part, describes depression as “…a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration” (WHO, 2011, para. 1).
Depending on several factors directly affecting an individual, such as stress, feelings of hopelessness, trauma, or loss of a loved one (Findley et al, 2011), depression can become chronic or persistent and lead to considerable impairments in the victim’s capability to take care of his or her everyday tasks. At its most terrible state, this disorder is known to lead to suicidal ideation (Soremekun et al, 2010), which may than lead to suicide – a disastrous outcome linked to the loss of an estimated 850,000 lives every year (WHO, 2011).
The symptoms of depressive disorders are many and varied, and usually depend on factors that may be unique to the individual, such as age, gender, perceived cause of the depressive disorder, and the immediate environment.
According to Ning et al (2011), depression exhibits itself through the presentation of any or all of such symptoms as: feelings of helplessness and hopelessness; loss of interest in daily activities; appetite and/or weight changes; sleep changes; anger or irritability; loss of energy; development of self-loathing attitude; engaging in reckless and/or escapist behavior; lack of concentration; and unexplained aches and pains.
To effectively manage and treat depressive disorders, it is important that psychologists and healthcare professionals know the risk factors involved. Risk factors generally entail all those factors that seem to either increase the risk of developing a particular condition or trigger other factors that may directly lead to the development of the particular condition (Findley et al, 2011).
A systematic analysis of various articles (Ning et al, 2011; Soremekun et al, 2011; Szabo et al, 2010; George et al, 2011) reveal that some of the most significant risk factors for depression include: genetics; being of the female gender; experiencing traumatic experiences either in childhood or in adulthood; alcoholism and drug abuse; experiencing stressful events in life, such as the loss of a loved one; giving birth (postpartum depression); experiencing a depressed mood in childhood; experiencing chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS or Alzheimer’s disease; developing negative personality traits, such as over dependence, low self-esteem or a pessimistic attitude; poverty, and; taking certain medications that may alter the proper functioning of the body, such as sleeping pills or high blood pressure medications.
Neurological System Involved in Depression
Opinion still remains divided as to whether depression should be classified as a ‘neurological disease’ or a ‘psychiatric illness’ (Selby, 2011). However, what is known for now is the fact that depression alters the mental state of the victim and, as such, the condition, along with other conditions such as chronic stress and anxiety, may be responsible for depressing the central nervous system to a point where individuals suffering from these mental states experience memory loss and lack of concentration (Ning et al, 2011).
Going by this information, it can be safely argued that the central nervous system, which is the body’s main information processor, is the neurological system directly involved in depression. This assertion can be reinforced by the observation that people suffering from depressive disorders exhibit a perceived lack of clear thinking and incapacity to make decisions.
Science has demonstrated that all thinking and decision-making processes takes place in the brain, implying that the central nervous system, which principally consists of the brain and the spinal cord, is the neurological system most affected by depressive disorders (Selby, 2011).
In the first article named “Multimorbidity and Persistent Depression among Veterans with Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Hypertension”, Findley and colleagues sets out to evaluate the association between multimorbidity and chronic depression among a sample of veterans exposed to disease-related risk factors.
This study employs the retrospective longitudinal analysis as the research technique to perform a secondary analysis of data from merged Veterans Health Administration (VHA) administrative data and Medicare claims for war veterans who used the available VHA clinic services to manage or treat diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension in the fiscal year 2001, with a follow-up phase through the end of fiscal year 2002 (Findley et al, 2011).
The disease-specific International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9-CM) codes were used to include the veterans with the stated diseases into the study. It is important to note here that “…multimorbidity was identified in terms of combinations of having diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension” (Findley et al, 2011, p. 111).
In data analysis, the chi-square statistic was employed to investigate considerable subgroup variations in chronic depression categories, while multinomial logistic regressions were used to assess the relationship between multimorbidity and chronic depression. The results demonstrated an elevated likelihood of an acute depression diagnosis among those veterans exhibiting a combination of the risk factors under investigation; that is, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension (Findley et al, 2011).
In the second article named “Depressive Symptoms, Anatomical Region, and Clinical Outcomes for Patients seeking Outpatient Physical Therapy for Musculoskeletal Pain”, George and colleagues set out to evaluate the prevalence and impact of depression and depressive symptoms for patients suffering from musculoskeletal pain across diverse anatomical regions.
This particular study employed a prospective, associational research design, which was quantitative in nature, to gather demographic, clinical, depressive symptoms, and outcome data using self-report questionnaires. It is important to note that the 8,304 patients who took part in this study were sampled using convenience sampling procedures (George et al, 2011).
In data analysis, a chi-square analysis was done to examine the frequency of severe depressive symptoms, while an analysis of variance (ANOVA) assessed the influence of depressive symptoms and anatomical section on intake pain concentration and functional status.
Additionally, hierarchical multiple regression models were run to assess the influence of depressive symptoms on well-stated clinical outcomes. The results demonstrated that prevalence of severe depression was remarkably higher in women and in other patients who had earlier reported incidences of persistent pain and/or prior surgery (George et al, 2011).
This paper has succeeded in providing detailed information on depression, including its description, symptoms, risk factors, and the neurological system involved with the disorder. It is believed that this information is critical in the effective treatment and management of depressive disorders. The articles reviewed have demonstrated the interrelationship between the risk factors and the prevalence of depression.
Findley, P., Chan, S., & Sambamoorthi, U. (2011). Multimorbidity and persistent depression among veterans with diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Health & Social Work, 36(2), 109-119. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier Database
George, S.Z., Coronado, R.A., Beneciuk, J.M., Valencia, C., Werneke, M.W., & Hart, D.L. (2011). Depressive symptoms, anatomical region, and clinical outcomes for patients seeking outpatient physical therapy for musculoskeletal pain. Physical Therapy, 91(3), 358-372. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Murray, B., & Fortinberry, A. (2005). Depression facts and stats. Web.
Ning, L., Lihua, P., Gong, C., Xinming, S., Jun, Z., & Xiaoying, Z. (2011). Risk factors for depression in older adults in Beijing. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56(8), 466-473. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Selby, M. (2011). Neurological diseases. Practice Nurse, 41(3), 35-41. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Soremekun, M., Stewart, R., Portet, F., Artero, S., Ancelin, M.L., & Ritchie, K. (2010). Neurological signs and late-life depressive symptoms in a community population: The ESPRIT study: International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 25(7), 672-678. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Szabo, A., Mezei, G., Kovari, E., & Cserhati, E. (2010). Depressive symptoms amongst asthmatic children’s caregivers. Pediatric Allergy & Immunology, 21(4), 667-673. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
World Health Organization. (2011). Mental health: Depression. Web.