Depressive illness is a common condition and affects 1 in 5 individuals at some time in their lives. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, lack of pleasure or loss of interest in daily life. A depressed mood can be temporary with relatively mild symptoms, and may improve without treatment. In its more serious form, major depression is a severe mood disorder that doesn't change or improve unless treated, affects a person's memory and concentration, causes sleep and appetite changes, and can lead to suicide.
What are the Symptoms of Major Depression?
- Persistent sad or 'empty' mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being 'slowed down'
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia,early-morning waking or oversleeping)
- Eating disturbances (loss of appetite and weight, or weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Excessive crying
- Chronic aches and pains that don't respond to treatment
A person who has five or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks should bring these symptoms to the attention of his or her doctor.
How is Depression Treated? Once depression has been identified, there is help available. The two most effective kinds of treatment for major depression are antidepressant medication and counseling. Best results occur with a combination of both treatments.
How is This Related to Heart Disease? Patients with chronic physical illness are at even higher risk than the general population with respect to developing depressive disorders. It is often a common but treatable complication of chronic conditions.
- The prevalence of depressive disorders in patients who have a history of heart attacks is estimated to be from 40-65%.
- 18-20% of coronary heart patients without history of heart attack may experience depression.
It has been well documented by several groups, that patients with coronary heart disease who are depressed are at higher risk for cardiac events (heart attacks) than are patients with comparable heart disease who are not depressed. Medical science is currently looking for the causes of this increased risk. One study, for instance, found there is a high prevalence of smoking among depressed patients with heart disease. Depression can also cause chemical changes in the body.
- Depression can increase symptoms related to medical illness, such as pain, fatigue, and sleep difficulty.
- People who survive heart attacks but suffer from major depression have a 3-4 times greater risk of dying within six months than those who don't suffer from depression.
What to Do if You or a Loved One is Depressed Due to Chronic Coronary Problems -
- See your doctor for an evaluation.
- Get a referral for counseling, if indicated.
- Seek a support group in the community.