Is there a cure for existential depression

Depression: When every sensation becomes a discomfort

Michelangelo and Luther, Goethe and Mozart, Marx and Sartre, Marie Curie and Virginia Woolf - the Depression has a long list of prominent victims. This is little consolation for those affected, as, according to the World Health Organization, the disease is one of the most stressful of all. And the comparatively common ones: in Germany alone, around 4 million people suffer from depression that requires treatment, according to the Depression Competence Network.

Depressive thoughts - on the copperplate ‘Melencolia’ by Albrecht Dürer, 1514. In some cases of depression there is a specific cause, such as the loss of a loved one, but suffering and pain go far beyond the normal range. With other types of depression, no cause can be identified. The illness differs from the "depressive days" of normal human life, among other things, in that the depressed mood does not subside on its own within two weeks. The symptoms of depression include constant depression, decreased interest, and rapid exhaustion. Often there are also sleep disorders and loss of appetite, as well as feelings of guilt and listlessness up to complete freezing. Severely depressed people do not manage to get up or leave a room of their own accord! In other patients, the depression can also manifest itself in agitation, i.e. aimless restlessness, or in symptoms of physical discomfort such as aching limbs. It was recently discovered at the University of Jena that people suffering from depression also have a different sense of time: They experience everything in slow motion. This means, for example, that they experience a short delay as an endless waiting time. A globally valid catalog, the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO), lists the different forms of depression and helps doctors diagnose and choose therapy.

The disease
In addition to the individual suffering that depression means for patients and relatives, it also leads to considerable economic burdens. In 2002, 18 million days of absenteeism in German workplaces were due to the diagnosis of "depressive disorders", as the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health System Research (ISEG) in Hanover has extrapolated. Women were twice as likely to be absent as men fifty days of sick leave per patient, the absence from work was also exceptionally long compared to other illnesses.

But what does it mean to suffer from depression? Depression differs from normal forms of sadness or depressive mood through a number of clearly defined characteristics. “Every sensation turns into a discomfort,” says Professor Ulrich Hegerl, Director of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychiatry at the Leipzig University Hospital and spokesman for the “Depression, Suicidality” competence network.