Hopeless outlook, sleep problems, loss of interest in activities, loss of energy, change in appetite, anxiety, irritability, uncontrollable emotions and suicidal urges are some of the warning signs of depression.
What is depression?
Depression (Major Depressive Disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that affects how one feels, thinks and acts. It causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of physical and emotional problems and decrease the person’s ability to function properly at home or work.[i]
Depression is a mood disorder. Psychological disorders in which individuals experience swings in their emotional states that are much more extreme and prolonged than is true of most people are known as mood disorders[ii]. Thus depression is a mood disorder in which individuals experience extreme unhappiness, lack of energy and other related symptoms. An individual who experiences a minimum of five of the related symptoms at once during a two weeks period is classified by the DSM-IV [iii]as undergoing a major depressive episode.
Those suffering a loss might describe themselves as being “depressed”. However, being sad is not the same as having or suffering from depression. The process of grieving is very natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. In grief the low mood remains for a short period of time whereas in depression, mood or interest is deceased for most of two weeks. Feelings of worthlessness and self loathing are common which is not the case in grief.
Causes of depression
Depression can affect anyone at any age and the reasons are not always known.
- Physical health problems – The mind and the body are linked. Physical health problems can usher in changes in mental health. The stress of having an illness can trigger depression in an individual.
- Drugs – Drugs and alcohol can contribute to depressive disorders such as statins, stimulants, anticonvulsants etc.
- Stressful life events – The events which overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, may cause depression. High level of cortisol released during periods of stress may affect the serotonin and cause depression.
- Grief and loss – Loss of a loved one may cause grief. Trouble in sleeping, poor appetite and a loss of pleasure or interest in activities are a normal response to loss. The symptoms are expected to fade over time. However if they get worse, grief may turn into depression.
9 Symptoms of Depression
Depression can have a number of symptoms varying from individual to individual. However there are certain common symptoms which should not be neglected.
Depression at first and foremost changes the person’s outlook towards life. It makes him hate himself and his life and sometimes make him feel like he is a burden on others. This may look irrelevant to others but this thought slowly kills the person from within causing physical and emotional changes in the body.
People suffering from depression may often lie awake at night unable to sleep. This condition initially may cause uneasiness but in the long run the person may develop insomnia and may not have any problem with it due to habituation. However some people may also feel too sleepy and may not want to get out of bed. This is also possible in depression as, the person may not have the zeal or interest in things around him/her.
Loss of interest in activities
Depression causes loss of interest in everyday activities and hobbies. A person may not feel like doing anything and sit idle in one corner of the room. He may not find the zeal to do his work and find everything around him to be meaningless and boring. He may always be in low spirits, discouraged and sad.
Loss of energy
The person suffering depression may show slow and retarded movements. The person may feel sleepy. However people may also show sudden energetic behaviour such as throwing away things, killing themselves or do something drastic. The sexual desires tend to diminish and the person may become frigid or impotent. There is a marked retardation in the thought process. The person may not try to think as it would require energy.
Change in appetite
People may have loss of appetite during The person may stop eating as he/she may stop concerning about his/her physical well being. Disregard for personal hygiene is common during periods of depression.
A depressed person may overthink sometimes or not think at all. The person may feel hopeless, helpless and worthless. Delusions and hallucinations such as paranoia are common.
The person may become slow or sluggish, talk slowly or hesitantly and may not want to talk at all preferring loneliness and may become agitated if forced to talk or communicate with others.
A depressed person may show no emotion at all or all of a sudden burst with emotions. Mood swings are very common in depression. This is very natural and not intentional. For instance, suddenly a person may show anger and the next minute cry hopelessly.
Depression is sometimes connected with suicidal urges. The person may start to feel worthless and useless. This overthinking may lead him to take away his life. This is the ultimate phase of this disorder. There are many people who ultimately take away their lives with no fault of their own.
There are a number of other symptoms of depression, these being the major and most common among patients. Depression is not a joke and neither a stigma. It is just another illness that the body suffers. Proper care and communication can help save a person. There are thousands of people who kill themselves without proper treatment and care. Family plays a key role in understanding the sufferings of the person and get him proper treatment and medication. Treatment involves medication and psychotherapy. Through therapies the therapist or psychiatrist talks with the patient and helps to change his outlook towards life, motivate him through various enriching tasks to restore him back to normal life. However if these do not help, the patient may be given medication in addition to therapies. Opening up about sufferings and having a broad outlook will reduce suicidal rates and help a person live.