Depression


Depression is the most common psychiatric illness and affects all ages. It is estimated that about 20% of individuals will have at least one depressive episode during their lifetime, it will be ranked 1st among diseases worldwide in 2030 according to the World Health Organisation.

The closeness of the symptoms experienced with emotions that we all experience throughout life (sadness, discouragement, despair) leads to confusion between true depression and  sadness or “blues”. However, for most of us, the variation of these emotions is normal, temporary and does not constitute a handicap to our daily activities. Depression is an illness, not a reflection of character weakness. It can last a few weeks, often several months, sometimes several years. It requires specific medical care and healing is not a matter of will. It can progress chronically and its complications can be serious. In 15 to 30% of cases, the standard therapeutic strategies proposed remain ineffective with consequences on the quality of life of patients, as well as on social, family and professional life with a very high societal cost. The risk of suicide is also increased. Moreover, patients have an increased probability of developing chronic physical pathologies (diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, etc…), and we are not all equal when faced with the risk of depression.

Treatments - the promise of research:


Like most psychiatric disorders, depression is thought to be related to the complex interaction between multiple psychological, biological and environmental factors.

Numerous studies have also demonstrated the importance of genetic vulnerability: a person whose parents suffer or have suffered from depression has an increased risk (2 to 4 times higher) of suffering from depression themselves during their lifetime. This genetic research has paved the way for a model of depression based on an altered response to stress with the involvement of certain hormones underlying its expression. In this context, the relationships between hormonal imbalance (postpartum depression, menopause, etc.) and the occurrence of a depressive episode have been widely established.

Research has also highlighted the involvement of many biological factors, including the imbalance of several neurotransmitters. This imbalance disrupts communication between neurons causing significant disturbances in the functioning of brain regions closely related to the appearance of symptoms of depression, classically found by imaging work.

Finally, people’s health status plays a determining role. There is thus a notable link with the existence of a chronic disease (cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, infections…). The occurrence of depressive episodes in patients suffering from an inflammatory somatic disease has thus led researchers to explore the involvement of immuno-inflammatory mechanisms in depression. Research focussing on nutritional aspects has also established a link between food quality and the recurrence of depressive episodes.

So, there are many avenues to explore to better understand and therefore better treat this disease in its resistant forms.

The precise characterisation of the markers involved is an essential prerequisite for the development of targeted therapeutic innovations.

A major concern for researchers is to improve the care and treatment prescribed to people suffering from depression, successfully predicting the therapeutic response and prognosis of the disease. Research aims to identify genetic, biological, inflammatory, hormonal, anatomical and functional or nutritional markers of relapse and response to treatment, in order to guide the choice of therapeutic strategies to be proposed on a daily basis by practitioners in charge of depressed patients.

Testimony:


Testimony of Anne

"My depression is not my fault. My uterus was removed, it was painful, but I would have preferred to have three uteruses removed rather…