‘Extreme sadness; a heavy heart; complete hopelessness; feeling of self-guilt; angry outbursts; irritation’. Should you or anyone around you is going through one or more of these symptoms for a prolonged duration, it is time to seek immediate help for these symptoms indicate that the person is going through a state of depression.
Depression is not a ‘mood swing’ or just a ‘down and low’ feeling. Depression is an illness, a real illness and worse, a common one. While everybody suffers from occasional ‘feeling down’ it usually lasts for a couple of days and disappears, however, if someone has the above-mentioned symptoms for 2 weeks or more, it is a case of depression.
As mentioned by webmd.com, doctors use a manual DSM-5 which states that a person is undergoing a state of depression if he/she has any 5 of more of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks:
- A depressed mood during most of the day, especially in the morning
- You feel tired or have a lack of energy almost every day.
- You feel worthless or guilty almost every day.
- You have a hard time focusing, remembering details, and making decisions.
- You can’t sleep or you sleep too much almost every day.
- You have almost no interest or pleasure in many activities nearly every day.
- You think often about death or suicide (not just a fear of death).
- You feel restless or slowed down.
- You’ve lost or gained weight
- Feel irritable and restless
- Lose pleasure in life
- Overeat or stop feeling hungry
- Have aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that don’t go away or get better with treatment
- Have sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Joint pains
- Slow speech and lethargic movements
While these symptoms are quite common, everybody suffering from depression will have these in different combinations, degrees of severity, frequency and duration.
What Causes Depression?
No single cause can be pointedly blamed for the occurrence of depression. There could be many factors which could singly or severally lead any one to a state of depression. These factors could be psychological, physiological, environmental, genetic, biochemical, etc. Loss of a loved one, a chronic illness, societal isolation or rejection, hormonal changes, a stressful life event or a persistent problem any of these could trigger a depressive state of mind.
Types of Depression
Depression does not discriminate between sexes or age. Following are the various types of medically recognized depressions that people may suffer from time to time:
- Unipolar Major Depression: This is the most common type of depression that most people suffer from when they are suffering from the illness. This occurs when your symptoms start interfering with your general way of living and daily functions for 2 weeks or longer;
- Dysthymia: When persistent depressive disorder with usually milder mood symptoms last for over 2 years, a person is said to be affected by Dysthymia;
- Postpartum depression: This occurs in women after giving birth to a child. The baby birth triggers mood swings in the following days or weeks, called baby blues. When the reaction is stronger and lasts for a longer duration, it is considered postpartum depression;
- Seasonal Affective disorder (SAD): In this case, depression occurs seasonally, primarily in the winter months when sunlight is in short supply. It is often improved by exposure to specific types of artificial light;
- Psychotic depression: In cases of psychotic depression, severe depression is paired with some form of psychosis, such as delusions and hallucinations;
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: Here, a woman has severe mood problems before the start of her periods, which are more intense than typical premenstrual syndrome (PMS);
- Substance-induced mood disorder (SIMD): This takes place when symptoms occur when the person is taking a drug or after it has been stopped
Treatments for Depression
While Depression is a serious and dangerous mental illness, the good news is that even a severe degree of depression is highly treatable. The treatment can be classified into 4 categories:
Psychotherapy or Talk Therapy: This is designed for people to identify and deal with psychological, interpersonal, behavioral and situational factors of depression. A couple of methods of Psychotherapy are 1) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) where unhealthy and negative thoughts of a person are identified and replaced with positive ones; and 2) Interpersonal Therapy where the focus is on identifying problems in interpersonal relationships and problems affecting those by strategies of better interaction and eliminating the problems.
Medication: Cases of mild depression can be easily sorted with the help of Psychotherapy alone, more severe cases need to complement psychotherapy with dosage of antidepressants. These antidepressants are a class of drugs which moderate certain chemicals to the parts o brain which affect mood and behavior.
Brain Stimulation Therapy: Should Medication not work either in stubborn cases of depression, the next resort is to external resources to stimulate the brain to get out of the disorderly state and start functioning normally. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) may be the options.
Treat it Naturally: While the above methods will work singly or in a combination, there are several natural remedies, which help ease the state of depression. These can be practices along with the above-mentioned methods:
Physical Exercise – Plan a schedule for running, walking, swimming, gym and stick to it come what may
Do not skip meals – Have your meals, timely. Even if you are not interested in eating, skipping meals is definitely not the way to handle the situation.
Meditate – Meditation and/or yoga help bring calmness to your mind and clear your thoughts
Engage in a hobby – Read, write, listen to music, dance. Divert your mind from morose thoughts
Do not stay alone – Depression and loneliness can prove to be a fatal combination. Try to be in the company of family & friends. Even a pet dog or cat can keep you occupied and away from depression
Talk it out – Do not keep your thoughts feelings within yourself. Share your thoughts with a close confidant.
Challenge – Do not let the negative thoughts overpower you. Challenge your negative thoughts and fight them. Push them and shove them out of your mind.
Remember one thing. Life is a cycle of ups and downs and nothing lasts forever. Today you may be having a blast of a time, this will not last forever and you are bound to face a low. This low shall also pass. Think of a wave which hits a crest followed by a trough and this goes on as the wave progresses. Should there be no ups and downs, life will stagnate and not progress.