Depression is a mood disorder. It is characterized by sadness of mood and loss of interest in almost all activities. Depression causes feelings of grief, agony, or damage of enthusiasm in activities once enjoyed and admired. It can can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and even at home.
We also need to know the difference between situational depression and clinical depression, a mental health disorder that can affect your work, study, sleep, eat, and those activities which give you the feeling of joy. I’m not here to detail you about the entirety of depression. Of course, everyone now a days is familiar with depression and its symptoms. At least base line information is expected.
Common types of Depression:
1. Major Depressive Disorder: Characterized by sadness of mood with melancholic features like sleep disturbance, usually insomnia and early morning awakening, decreased interest in most of the activities and loss of motivation, guilt, loss of vigour, cognitive problems like decreased attentiveness, memory disturbance, indecisiveness. Decreased desire for food and sex is common, although increased appetite and weight gain can occur as well. Decreased psychomotor / physical activity. Preoccupation of mind with death or those thoughts which we often call in clinical psychiatry as self harm.
2. Dysthymic Disorder: it is a chronic and less severe form of major depression, most of the time with no discrete episodes. In some patients with major depressive disorders the residual phase is characterized by dysthymic disorder and is called as double depression.
Diagnosis of dysthymia is not made until the patient has had symptoms for at least 2 years.
Sometimes it is characterised by fluctuating hypomanic and depressive episodes (bipolar disorder)
Sustained stress is not only one reason of depression. There are other reasons as well which determine mental health disorder like biological, social, psychological. Sudden changes in the hormonal level can cause depression. That is why many mothers experience depression after giving birth, known as postpartum depression.
Depression is more common in females with F : M ratio of 2:1. Combination of family history, psychological and even social factors cause depression. As for as treatment is concerned, I think better is to consult doctor and seek help. Treatment plans vary from individual to individual depending on their respective state of depression. Though there are some basic approaches for treating few mild depressions like exercises or travelling, keeping yourself busy, but again they are short term solutions. To permanently treat depression you need to get hand on roots. That is why evaluating patients, taking their histories, then clinical examinations, are still preferable modes of treating patients suffering from depression.
Additionally, we need to understand some important issues which are equally important as we manage depression.
There are some false narratives spread even by educated people about anti-depressants. Anti-depressants are prescribed on a case by case basis, and the general stigma against anti-depressants is misinformed. They are just like any other medicine one takes, just like people take medicines for diabetes and other health conditions.
Also anti depressants are neither sleep inducing nor addictive medicines. As patient gets treated and feel actually recovering, give them feel good moment. Patients should not stop or completely quit anti-depressants abruptly as it can aggravate the condition in a more serious way at times. So don’t do that!
Depression is not a choice, most people confuse or mix sadness with depression. Like they say, it is your own decision whether you want be in depression or not. It is completely wrong. We need to reach out doctors first, because reaching out to your friends or colleagues may take time. Then we have other social absurdities and vulnerabilities, which push patients further towards the isolation and into the deep pit of depression. So it is always better to consult doctor as soon as you feel it for yourself, that it is not a mood swing rather anything else. Generally, our older generations are less sensitive to depression and mental disorders, because they think it is a new disease which was not present earlier. But in reality depression has been around for a long time. We have just learnt to identify it. Depression is not a disease of modern urban age. When you have long periods of demotivation, social withdrawal, and sense of low self worth for a lengthy period of time, just get the doctor straight away. Don’t believe anyone except a doctor, because a psychiatrist is the most appropriate person to deal with this situation.
Dr Asmat Mushtaq is Programming Officer, DMHP, Srinagar.