People might say "I'm depressed" when in fact they mean "I'm fed up because I've had a row, or failed an exam, or lost my job" etc. These ups and downs of life are common and normal. Most people recover quite quickly.
However, the literal meaning of depression means that you have a low mood for at least two to three weeks. The symptoms might become severe enough and interfere with your routine activities.
Who gets depression?
About 2 in 3 adults have depression at some time in their life. Sometimes it is mild or lasts just a few weeks. If the episodes of depression are serious enough then you might require treatment. There can be a possibility that the person has had two or more serious episodes of depression.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
Many people know when they are depressed, while some may not know when they are depressed. They may understand that what they are doing is not right but do not know why? They may confuse it with a physical ailment like losing weight. Dr. Shashi Bhushan Kumar mentions below the common symptoms the person can suffer but it is unusual to have them all.
- Low mood for most of the day, nearly every day. Things always seem 'black'
- Loss of enjoyment and interest in life, even for activities that you normally enjoy
- Abnormal sadness, often with weepiness.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or uselessness.
- Simple tasks seem difficult
- Poor concentration. It may be difficult to read, work, etc
- Difficulty in getting off to sleep; Waking up early and unable to get back to sleep; Excessive sleeping
- Lack of energy
- Irritability, agitation, or restlessness
- Headaches, palpitations, chest pains, and general aches.
- Recurrent thoughts of death
What causes Depression?
The exact cause is not known. Anyone can become depressed. An episode of depression may also be triggered by a life event such as relationship problem, bereavement, redundancy, illness, etc. Women may develop depression more often than men. Particularly common times for women to become depressed are after childbirth (postnatal depression) and the menopause. A chemical imbalance in the brain might be a factor; however, the reason is not fully understood.
Are there treatments for Depression? What if there is no treatment available?
Treatments are divided based on the depression you are suffering: Mild, Moderate and Severe! Most people suffering from depression may get better without any treatment, but it might take several months. Meanwhile, living with depression can be difficult and distressing (and also for your family and friends). Relationships, employment, etc, may be seriously affected. There is also a danger that some people turn to alcohol or illegal drugs.
Treatment options for:
Mild Depression: In general, mild depression means that you have some of the symptoms listed above, but are still able to cope reasonably well with normal activities. For example, you may still be able to do your normal job, and get by with household chores, but with difficulty. Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following.
Talking treatments (psychological treatments): Talking through feelings may be all that you need for mild depression. Sometimes talking with an understanding friend or relative is helpful. Your doctor may also 'talk things through' with you or refer you to a counsellor. A brief course of cognitive behavioural therapy may help.
Specific counselling: In some cases, there is a particular problem that triggered the depression or made it worse like sexual or marital problems, childhood abuse, bereavement etc. Counselling can also help if it is done by local agency or self-help groups that deal with specific problems.
Exercise Program: A typical exercise program to help ease depression would be three 'formal' sessions per week of moderate duration (45-60 minutes) for 10-12 weeks. Aerobic exercises are probably best such as jogging, brisk walking, swimming, playing a vigorous team sport such as football or netball, etc. However, ideally, you should try to get into the habit of doing some sort of exercise on most days in between any 'formal' exercise. For example, try to go out for a walk each day.
Treatment options for Moderate or Severe Depression
Moderate depression means that you experience symptoms listed above, and find great difficulty in coping with normal activities. Severe depression is even worse. In these situations, a doctor may suggest one or more of the following:
A medicine cannot alter your circumstances. However, symptoms such as low mood, poor sleep, poor concentration, etc, are often eased with an antidepressant. This may then allow you to function normally, and increase your ability to deal with any problems or difficult circumstances.
Antidepressants do not usually work straight away. It takes 2-4 weeks before their effect builds up fully. A common problem is that some people stop the medicine after a week or so as they feel that it is doing no good. You need to give it time. Also, if it is helping, follow the course that a doctor recommends. A normal course of antidepressants lasts up to six months or more after symptoms have eased. Some people stop treatment too early and the depression quickly returns.
Talking (psychological) treatments
Most psychological treatments for depression last in the range of 16-20 sessions over 6-9 months. You may be advised:
Cognitive therapy: Cognitive therapy is based on the idea that certain ways of thinking can trigger, or 'fuel', certain mental health problems such as depression. The therapist helps you to understand your thought patterns. In particular, to identify any harmful, unhelpful, and 'false' ideas or thoughts which you have that can make you depressed. The aim is then to change your ways of thinking to avoid these ideas. Also, to help your thought patterns to be more realistic and helpful. Therapy is usually done in weekly sessions over several months. You are likely to be given 'homework' between sessions.
Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT): This is a combination of cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy. Behavior therapy aims to change any behaviours which are harmful or not helpful.
Other types of therapy sometimes used include are Interpersonal therapy, problem-solving therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy.
Specialist and hospital-based treatments
Other treatments such as specialist medicines or “Modified Electro Convulsive Therapy“(MECT) may be advised if you have severe depression which has not improved with other treatments.
Each person is different, and the ability to recover will vary. However, you must try to do routine activities to speed up the recovery process.