Health

FIND OUT WHAT DEPRESSION IS REALLY ALL ABOUT

iMEDHealth

When you hear the word depression, gloomy faces and grey memes come to mind. The term is loosely thrown about and terribly misused, greatly undermining the authenticity of this condition. It is often used to describe feelings like occasional sadness, indecisiveness, stress, and fatigue. Depression is not limited to a few emotions or defined by a ‘bad day’. It is in fact, a mental health issue that should be taken seriously and treated accordingly.

What is depression?

Depression, also known as a major depressive disorder or clinical depression is a mood disorder. It is characterized by an extreme and persistent feeling of sadness that causes you to regress from daily activities. You may lose the sense of confidence and self-esteem and lose interest in your surroundings.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the symptoms of depression must last for at least 2 weeks to receive a diagnosis.

Depression can take several forms and present itself in different ways. You can’t always tell if someone is suffering from depressive symptoms. Sometimes, the symptoms are masked or sub-clinical. Since mental health issues, such as this one is a taboo topic, people tend to hide their feelings and force themselves to show up at social events and gatherings to avoid gossip.

What are the different types of depression?

Each form of depression is slightly different from the other:

  • Persistent depressive disorder: In this condition, the symptoms of depression last for at least two years. There may be periods of severe depression followed by phases of less severe symptoms.
  • Perinatal depression: Some women experience real ‘lows’ during pregnancy which continue after the birth of the baby as well (postpartum depression). They find it extremely difficult to care for themselves and their babies during this period due to health anxiety and exhaustion coupled with feelings of extreme sadness. Overcoming anxiety by reducing certain stress factors can help manage the condition better.
  • Bipolar depression: This term refers to episodes of extreme sadness that meet the criteria of depression, but are associated with alternating episodes of mania, or extreme happiness. This condition in which, an individual may experience spells of both ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ is called bipolar disorder.
  • Unipolar depression: Depression without episodes of mania is referred to as unipolar depression. The individual is in a consistent state of sadness.
  • Psychotic depression: This type refers to depression associated with psychotic symptoms such as delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that isn’t really there) or paranoia.

 

How do you know if you really have depression?

If you have been suffering from the following symptoms for at least two weeks or more, it is best to consult a doctor or a trained psychiatrist:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling of emptiness
  • Feeling aimless
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Becoming unaware of surroundings/environment
  • Extreme low self esteem
  • Poor self confidence
  • Don’t feel like getting out of bed or leaving the house
  • May have suicidal thoughts
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Restless
  • Irritable
  • Low energy levels
  • Fatigue

How does depression get so bad?

There are several factors that influence or contribute to depression. Some people might plunge into depression due to intolerable circumstances, unforeseen life events, loss of loved ones, ill health, personal or family problems.

For instance, grief is often confused with depression as there are long periods of extreme sadness. You may feel lost and overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, but as tough as this phase may be, the intensity of emotions tends to decrease with time. You eventually accept that ‘passing on’ is a natural and unavoidable part of life and learn to move on.

However, if this period of grief lingers and overlaps with other components of depression like feelings of loneliness, guilt and anxiety, over time, it should raise concern and professional help should be obtained immediately. Mounting anxiety can lead to panic attacks which will further increase the depression. It’s a vicious cycle. For beginners, you can see where you stand by taking an anxiety test online. It is a questionnaire which assesses your answers and provides you with a final score at the end.  It could be used as a self-evaluation tool at home.

If you think going to your doctor seems like too much of an effort, feel free to contact one online at mylivedoctors.com. You can browse through our list of expert healthcare providers and get the counselling and guidance you need. You can choose a method of communication that you’re most comfortable with like phone calls, texts or email. Appointments on the phone usually give people more confidence and assurance without having to actually ‘show up’ for them.

Another strong associated factor that enhances depression and its symptoms is alcohol consumption. Alcohol and depression go hand in hand when it comes to neglect and misuse. Taken in excess, it turns into a substance of abuse which only worsens the situation. You tend to make bad choices while ‘under the influence’ and will probably regret them later. Intoxication leads to brain damage which will exacerbate the symptoms of depression. Some people even take their anti-depressants with alcohol, which is a BIG no! The alcohol counters the effects of the medicine and makes the symptoms harder to treat.

How do you treat depression?

Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and how long you’ve had them. The earlier you get help, chances are the sooner you will recover. The mainstay of treatment is medication and psychotherapy.  However, non-medicinal, more natural methods such as exercise and dietary changes may be tried as well.

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed by the doctor and may take 2 to 4 weeks for visible improvement of symptoms. So, don’t be quick to judge and do not stop taking them without doctor’s advice. Most antidepressants are tapered off gradually by the end of the course, which may last from 6 months to a year. Multiple medicines have to be taken during the day and some may cause fogginess and sedation. To help you keep track of your meds, you can download a pill reminder app such as iMEDTracker that will ensure you don’t miss even a single dose.

Psychotherapy or counselling can be acquired at depression treatment centers or related institutions. A couple of sessions a week, spanned over a reasonable time frame can help overcome self-esteem and confidence issues as well as facilitate social interaction again.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more. Living with depression is not easy.  Fight the taboo and be an advocate of mental health in your community.

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