Everyone, at some point/points in their life, comes across mood swings and emotional stress. Response to those stress is unique to each individual as everyone reacts to a certain situation in their own way. These feeling of sadness or loneliness are generally short-lived and are forgotten or coped with after a certain period of time. But, if these feelings do not fade away and last more than two weeks (approximately) with a moderate or severe intensity which as a result affects the health of the person adversely is generally known as depression.
Depression, also known as a major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a serious form of mental illness and affects the way a person (with such condition) thinks, speaks, conducts his/her daily activities and socializes with the people. It is a common illness that affects large population around the world. Around 350 million people across all the ages to be exact according to the World Health Organization and the number is increasing day by day as result of increased competition in daily lives, higher expectations increased diagnostic facilities and awareness. Data suggest that women are more affected by the illness than their counterparts. Apart from the anxiety, mental stress and damage to one’s social life caused due to this illness, there is also an increased risk of fatal heart attacks among the people with depression. It, in its most severe form, can initiate suicidal ideation and subsequently lead to suicide.
Sign and Symptoms of Depression
A person is said to have major depressive disorder if s/he has at least four of the following symptoms for at least two weeks.
- Insistent sadness or anxiety
- Pessimism or feeling of hopelessness
- Getting irritated by simplest of things
- Low self-confidence and feeling of worthlessness
- Loneliness and guilt
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies
- Fatigue and decreased energy to perform daily activities
- Trouble concentrating or remembering things
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Trouble sleeping or oversleeping
- Headaches and pains without a clear physical origin that do not go away even with treatment
- Loss of appetite and fluctuation in weight
- Suicidal ideation or attempt
Though the signs and symptoms are similar to a major extent, depression can be categorized into different forms under the circumstances they are developed in:
A persistent depressive disorder is the one that continues for at least two years, with the person suffering from multiple episodes of major depressive disorder along with the occurrence of milder symptoms.
Psychotic depression is the condition when a person when a person with severe depression develops some characteristics of psychosis-like delusions, hallucinations, etc.
A seasonal affective disorder is the one which generally begins in the winter seasons as a result of gloomy weather i.e. less sunlight and characterized by social isolation, increased intake of food and weight gain returning every year in the winter.
Other forms include peripartum depression which occurs in the women who have depression weeks or months leading to the delivery of their baby, bipolar disorder, pre-menstrual depression, etc.
Prevention and treatment
Depression results from the multifaceted interactions between the psychological, biological and social factors. It can be prevented if the adverse situations can be prevented in life such as unemployment, loss of loved ones, failure and trauma. Awareness is very important as to differentiate between temporary mood fluctuations and depression. Sometimes, people who come across such emotional stress wrongly self-adjudge themselves to having major depressive disorder and thus may lead to further complications. There are various counselling centres established and self- help groups as well to help the victims overcome their condition. Families and friend play an important role in the prognosis of depression and helping determine which path the patient follows i.e. either towards normality or towards further complications. The concept of responsible parenthood can be very effective in the prevention of depression among children. There are various antidepressants now available for the patients and drugs for symptomatic treatment.
It has somehow managed to become an iceberg disease. It is our responsibility as part of the society and health professionals to help the people come out of their shell and empower them to express their condition and feelings. Tell them that it is not wrong to have depression but wrong to hide their condition, they are not responsible for depression itself but will be responsible for all the consequences if they do not seek help in time. Prevent it before it blossoms into something unmanageable.