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World Day to Combat Depression: January 13rd

January 13 marks the World Day to Combat Depression. It is a common mental disorder, affecting more than 300 million people worldwide, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO). It is also the world’s leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

According to WHO, depression is distinct from the usual variations in mood and brief emotional responses to the problems of everyday life. It can become a serious health problem, especially when it is of long duration and moderate to severe intensity, and can cause great suffering and disrupt work, school and family activities. In the worst cases it can even lead to suicide, being the second leading cause of death in the 15-29 age group.

Mechanisms involved in depression

 In order to understand how depression appears and is maintained, the interdependence of all the systems that make up the human being and underlie his behavior must be taken into account. A broad, transdisciplinary view is necessary to approach depression, as well as the rest of the so-called psychiatric or neurological disorders.

Although depression is often primarily related to emotional state, depressed individuals may show deficits in different domains of cognitive functioning, specifically executive function, attention, memory and psychomotor speed.

Specifically, with regard to executive function, they show deficits in the planning, initiation and monitoring of complex goal-directed behaviors. In addition, they also show difficulties in the ability to selectively attend to relevant stimuli and goals and inhibit processing or responding to non-relevant stimuli, which is called cognitive control.

Assessment and treatment of depression

The complete evaluation of a person with major depression should include the following phases:

Performance of a workup by the family physician or internal medicine physician to rule out organic medical or pharmacological causes that explain the condition, paying particular attention to personal and family history of depression.

Psychological/neuropsychological and/or psychiatric evaluation depending on each particular case.

Consultation with specialists in those cases in which it is necessary (e.g. drug-resistant sleep disorders).

 In terms of treatment, the approach to depression includes psychological and pharmacological (antidepressant) treatments. The decision as to what type of treatment is necessary to receive will depend on the person’s preference and other factors, such as:

Previous treatments and their outcome

Side effects

Level of severity (whether your depression is mild, moderate or severe)

Time of evolution