It’s perfectly normal to feel low when something bad happens or when life is giving you a tough time. If the melancholy, yet, persists over a long period of time and it starts affecting your ability to succeed in your daily life. There can be a lot of confusion when people use the term depression.
Sometimes the word is used to mean almost any type of negative feeling is it loneliness, unhappiness, sadness, despondency or feeling demoralized. Health providers usually use the word depression, to identify a mental disorder rather than a mood, and sometimes refer to it with the phrase “clinical depression”.
Depression by definition is classified as feelings of severe despondency and dejection. It is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being. With depression, feelings of anxiousness, emptiness, guilt, anger, or restlessness tend to creep into a person’s mind. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, experience relationship difficulties and may contemplate, attempt or commit suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems or reduced energy are all symptoms that a person is depressed.
Depressed mood is a feature of some psychiatric syndromes such as major depressive disorder, but it may also be a normal reaction, as long as it does not persist long term, to life events such as bereavement, a symptom of some bodily ailments or a side effect of some drugs and medical treatments. Depression is a persistent problem, not a passing one – the average length of a depressive episode is 6 to 8 months according to the doctors.
Our society is in the throes of an effective plague of depression, and the rising statistics are quite staggering and alarming. To understand and overcome it, we need to look deeper into this phenomenon. Today, many of us live dulled lives, that are somewhat robotic in nature and are void of deeper meaning and purpose.
Our lives often become visionless and passionless as we fail to spend our time with our loved ones and stay consumed with the hustle of work. We live in an intensely competitive culture that rewards achievement and success. Which leads our identity and esteem becoming reflections of these external markers of achievement. Our pursuit of happiness and well-being become terribly misdirected.
The demands of our intensely and neurotically driven culture strain our emotional and psychological balance and all this pressure of keeping up with the norms of the society leaves a person and his life disturbed well beyond its comfortable balance. The cultural paradigm in which we live leaves us disconnected, disenchanted and isolated.
The following are a few things we all need to educate ourselves about, on depression before we plan to help someone else.
It is more than just “feeling blue”:
A depressed person is constantly feeling worthless, hopeless, anxious, angry, and sad- even to the level of being suicidal. It’s a lot deeper than feeling blue. And it affects more than 100 million people worldwide.
It is not just a state of mind, it can even show physically:
Among other things, a depressed person can have body aches, headaches, high blood pressure, fatigue, and feeling of constant tiredness.
Watch out for simple symptoms:
Depression is a big deal, but the symptoms can be seen in the simplest of things- lack of concentration, being extremely forgetful about things, irritability, wanting to eat either all the time or never, being overly negative all the time, and general loss of enthusiasm in activities.
People of any age can have it:
A common misconception people have is that depression can hit someone at a later age in life. Yet, 1 out of 10 adolescents is likely to have a depressive disorder by the time they’re 18 years of age. Yes, depression among young adults is prevalent.
Levels of depression can range from mild to severe, to clinical:
There are different kinds of depression that hit people differently. Some people may have mild depression that normally would hit them after a sudden big change in their lives, like post-partum depression prevalent in new mothers, or for some, it could turn into a major depression over a period of time.
It is incredibly hard to live with depression
Something as simple as waking up every morning becomes difficult for a person suffering from depression. While some feel extremely vulnerable most of the time, some depressed souls feel numb-devoid of any emotion. And they can’t control it.
It should not be considered a taboo
Because depression isn’t talked about in a nation like ours, it becomes really difficult for people to even consider that they might have a problem, let alone get help in order to get better. It’s about time we start changing our mindset and prejudices about mental health and take action.
Even the happiest of people can have depression:
People may not seem depressed on the outside, but it’s the small things that stand out as a difference between healthy people, and depressed people.
Major depression can actually change the functioning of your brain:
Yes, depression can have staggering effects on the brain, and make people function differently overall
There are ways to fix depression, and to come out of it healthy:
Depressed people need to be assured that their way of thinking is just because of the sickness. If they’ve already accepted the fact that they’re depressed, their family and friends need to show support and let them know that you’ve got their back. It’s dicey if you know that the person is depressed and the patient doesn’t, they need to be handled with utmost care.
It can make one feel isolated and lonely:
A depressed person may feel like they’re all alone in this world with no one who cares. But, it’s only the matter of a little external help till they realize that this is not true. There are millions of people out there who feel the same way, and all they need to know is that this will pass. It might be difficult in the beginning, but then, the path to recovery is never easy.
Depressed mood may not always need a professional treatment, and may be a normal reaction to life events, a symptom of some medical condition, or a side effect of some drugs or medical treatments. A prolonged depressed mood, especially in combination with other symptoms, may lead to a diagnosis of a psychiatric or medical condition which may be treated with medication and proper treatment.
Different subdivisions of depression have different treatment approaches. It is not usually advisable to use the antidepressants on a routine basis especially for the initial treatment of mild depression because the risk-benefit ratio is poor. The treatment of depression is best managed by lifestyle choices, which includes, diet, sleep, and exercise. A recent meta-analysis also indicated that most antidepressants, do not seem to offer a clear advantage for children and adolescents in the acute treatment of the major depressive disorder.
If someone you care about has depression, the best and most important thing you can do is support them. To support someone else, you also need to look after yourself. Here are a few pointers:
Educate yourself– Understanding what depression is and how it affects the person you care about will help you be less frustrated and more supportive.
Encourage your friend to seek help – Having someone he/she can trust, like you is so important. But someone trying to cope with a mental disorder also needs treatment. Encourage them to see a doctor or psychologist to get the help he/she needs. Even if the problems don’t seem that bad yet, seeking help early can prevent problems from getting worse.
Listen – When you listen to and acknowledge their feelings, it sends the message that you care. Knowing that you have people who care about you is an important part of recovering from a mental disorder.
Be positive – Positive moods can be contagious! It’s really easy for someone with a mental disorder to focus only on the negative aspects of his/her life. Sharing your positive mood may help them see things from a different perspective.
Be patient – Sometimes it can be frustrating when they start acting differently and may not want to do anything they used to like. Take a deep breath and remember that depression is making them feel this way. He/she can’t just “snap out of it”. Getting impatient will only make the situation worse. Stay positive and be patient. Encourage them to take part in social events. He/she may feel like it’s too much work or effort, but will probably feel better afterward.
Don’t blame yourself – It is not your fault that they have depression. Many different factors, including his/her genetic background, environment, and life experiences are involved. No one can “make” another person have depression.
Put yourself first – On an airplane, they tell you to always put your oxygen mask on first in an emergency before you assist someone else. You’ll be no help to anyone if you’re passed out. With someone with a mental illness, if you burn yourself out by always putting him or her first, you won’t be able to help anyone. It’s absolutely okay (and important) to take time away to take care of yourself.
Don’t try to change your friend – You don’t have to solve all their problems or turn him/ her into a different kind of person. Just be present and supportive.
Have fun together – They need someone who can have fun, relax, and laugh with him/ her. These are all important parts of their mental health (and yours!).
Be aware of suicide risk – If they talk about death or suicide, don’t ignore it or keep it a secret. Talk to a responsible adult who they also trust (e.g., house, assistant, counselor, coach, professor etc). Let them know that you care about him/her and his/her life. If they are talking about suicide, it may be his or her way of indirectly asking for help.