Depression as a biopsychosocial disorder
The best way to understand depression is to consider it as a biopsychosocial disorder. A person becomes depressed as a result of the interplay of the biological, psychological and social factors in the person life.
Biological factors may include the person’s family history and genetic make-up as well as the person’s physical condition such as the presence of an illness or disorder. A person is at a greater risk of developing a depression when there is a strong family history of depression. Physical illnesses also increase the risk of depression (this explains why people tend to be depressed even after a seemingly minor illness like the flu).
Psychological factors may include the person temperamental traits and life experiences of loss. As mentioned above, perfectionistic personality tends to have a higher risk of developing a depression. People who are rigid and inflexible to the vicissitudes of life are also at risk. Losses of any kind such as unemployment, marriage break-up and death also increases one’s risk.
Social factors may include social isolation, lack of social support, migration to a new country, inability to access resources, hostile relationships, low socio-economic status and poor living condition. All these conditions increase one’s risk of developing a depression.
Using the biopsychosocial approach, it is obvious that no two depressed people are alike. A person who comes from a family with a strong history of depression does not need many other psychological or social factors to become depressed. On the other hand, a person may be very socially disadvantaged and yet does not develop a depression because there is a lack of biological and psychological risk factors.
Some useful suggestions to deal with depression
If you suspect that your child or yourself is suffering from depression, here are some useful suggestions:
- Seek the help of a healthcare professional who has the expertise to exclude a physical disorder and advise you about treatment options such as medication and/or therapy.
- Have a balanced diet to make sure that the nutritional needs are met.
- Exercise to improve the depressed mood.
- Reduce stress in your or your child’s life.
- Increase recreational time to unwind and relax.
- Practise relaxation exercise to put the nervous system back to equilibrium.
- If you are a drinker, reduce or stop the consumption of alcohol which is a depressant.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t be upset with yourself because you cannot snap out of your depression.
- Surround yourself with relatives and friends who can help you.
- Do not be ashamed to lean on others. This is the time you need to be dependent to get better.
- Stop all illicit drugs including marijuana.
- If you are taking prescribed medication, check with your doctor to make sure that it is not causing the depression.