Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Note: Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.Let's Talk About Depression Click To Tweet
According to the World Health Organisation, the number of people suffering from depression has increased by over 18% between the year 2005 and 2015. Depression is the largest cause of disability worldwide. Managing depression is one thing and taking care of it post-treatment is a different ballgame altogether. In most cases, people with a single episode of depression are 50% more susceptible to suffer from its recurrence, in such cases, a proper preventive plan must also be in place along with the treatment plan. The World Health Day 2017 looked at the nuances of this mental disorder and how to spot some of the early symptoms.
YOU DON’T NEED A REASON TO BE DEPRESSED
Before we go into the nuances of depression, what triggers it and how to overcome it, let us first understand one of the most common perceptions related to depression. When one is depressed, there isn’t always a specific reason behind it. According to the psychoanalyst, “Under normal circumstances, you know the cause of your sadness and also how to overcome the current situation. But when we talk about depression, one isn’t really able to zero down on the reason behind the feeling of sadness. It so happens that one fine day you wake up and find it extremely difficult to get out of bed.” Psychoanalyst further explains how our brain and neurological functions, our emotional health and other psychological and social factors can all come together to trigger depression. When there are some complications in our neurons or neurological transmitters, that is when the role of medication comes into play. Emotional or psychological imbalances can often be checked with therapy and counselling. “It’s like how sometimes you know the reason behind your fever, whereas many other times you are clueless about what could have gotten you down with a fever.”
YOUR PAST AND YOUR COPING MECHANISM
According to Psychoanalyst, most of the times our coping mechanism is unable to tackle a certain situation or a traumatic event; this gets entrenched in the psyche and later on can resurface in the form of clinical depression. Not everyone is equipped with the same set of skills to deal with a stressful or emotional event. Most people around us can be extremely sensitive; hence a depressive condition can also be a combination of past events, one’s personality and the efficacy of coping mechanism.
IS IT JUST A BAD PHASE?
The challenge is then to identify if the person is just going through a bad phase or is it something which needs immediate attention and professional help. How can you differentiate a spell of mood swings from the onset of mild clinical depression? Dr Achal Bhagat, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist and founder of Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, explains depressive disorder to be a condition wherein melancholia (sadness) is coupled with anhedonia (lack of interest in activities which were once pleasurable). If this persists for more than two weeks and is also coupled with feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, sleep and appetite disorders, it can be indicative of the onset of clinical depression. In such situations, it is imperative to seek professional help.
ARE YOU DEPRESSED WITHOUT KNOWING IT?
Dr Deepika Gupta, PhD in Psychology from All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) and regional manager at Human Dynamic, chalks out a few factors that can help one pinpoint the onset of mild clinical depression. “There are several biological markers as well as other social and psychological behavioural patterns that can help one understand if the onset of depression is imminent,” she shares. Those would include the following symptoms persisting for at least and over 14 days:
- Melancholy (sadness)
- Anhedonia (lack of interest in things and activities that are usually preferred by a person)
- Sudden social withdrawal; changed social behaviour
- Feeling fatigued, tired, lethargic, irritable and mentally tired throughout the day
- Drop in self-esteem
- Making repeated careless mistakes at work
- Quick and sudden mood swings and fits of anger
- Sleep disorders; insomnia
- Poor memory
- Eating disorders; loss of appetite or too much eating
- Sudden weight fluctuations
- Inability to cope with everyday events/situations
When it’s just a bad phase: Understand that if you feel depressed or low but are still able to carry on daily activities, it might just be a rough phase. If you can sleep over a tough day and wake up the next morning feeling fresh, with renewed energy and motivation to take up life as it comes, probably it was just a bad day. Dr. Gupta explains, “When you are depressed it affects more than one facet of your life – your behaviour, daily routine and habits, social circle, personal as well as professional life, interests, and health and so on.” In short, if you went a little awry at work but were able to switch off and relax with friends while catching up a drink or two, you were doing just about fine coping with a stressful situation.
HOW TO COPE?
Some of the leading experts in the field shared ways in which one can overcome depression.
Share – “the more expressive you are the easier it is for you to manage your stress and contain it.” Lack of expression and inability to vent out are some of the common features of severe depression. Cry it out, talk about it, share how you feel, and what you think with your loved ones. Pick up that phone, write to your folks or the best would be to just see your loved ones in person and spill your heart out. A healthy support mechanism is of the utmost importance.
Sleep & Other Friends – Get ample sleep, good food and regular exercise. meditation, yoga and taking up some hobby can also help distract your mind and facilitate coping. In stressful situations, learn to switch off and get off social media. Some of the recent studies show that social media can aggravate feelings of anxiety in many people hence ease off a bit there.
Other Little Things – you can self-aid yourself in tackling a depressive spell. These would include, (A) making a journal and writing about your feelings and emotions to de-clutter your mind and maintain a record of your emotional/psychological health. (B) Derive strength from your past struggles and how you overcame tough situations in the past. (C) Unwind – pamper yourself, reward yourself, treat yourself. (D) Do not blame yourself for events and circumstances which were unavoidable. Understand, what’s done cannot be reversed, make peace with it. (E) Learn to let go of memories, people, and things.
Depression is very much treatable with proper medication, good activity levels (exercise, yoga, meditation) and cognitive behaviour therapy, a person will report feeling positive and uplifted.
You and I Can Make a Difference – It is extremely important to identify a rough phase from the onset of mild clinical depression. Many go wrong with it, most ignore it, some choose not to talk about it – it goes unchecked in a lot of cases. A recent study reveals that one in every 10 Indians is depressed. Thinking of it, you can actually come across a depressed person every day and not know about it. So. let’s take some time off and be more observant of those little signs that your friend or colleague must be exhibiting or your friend who has suddenly lost interest and faith in life. Be a little gentle and sensitive to others.
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