An Expert Tells You Everything About Depression
Depression is a common mental health problem. Within a nuclear family of 4, there is a fair probability that one person will experience depression at some point of time in their life.Depression as an illness, while being common, is shrouded with misconceptions and stereotypes. “You don’t look sad…” is a common and inaccurate statement. While low mood is associated with depression, but it is not the only indicator of depression.
Those who suffer from depression, exhibit symptoms of irritability, low energy, and flat facial affect, among other things. It is imperative to understand that depression isn’t simply the prevalence of low mood, but sometimes the absence of any feeling at all. It is this inability to feel positive or simply feel anything in general, that makes depression an extremely isolating experience.
We are all likely to feel low at some point of time in our lives, and for those who are careful about their mental health, this may warrant the question: does this mean I am depressed? The rule of thumb is, if your mood has been low or unmanageable for an extended period of time and has begun affecting the quality of your life, you should get a diagnosis of your mental health concern; be it depression or something else.
Recently, I was in conversation with a 29-year-old working professional, recovering from environmentally-induced depression. While discussing her journey, she made an astute observation, which I feel is important to share. She said that over the years, she used the term ‘depression’ for any difficult, negative or unhappy life event.
She mentioned that it was only when she actually experienced depression, she understood its true meaning. “The feeling becomes suffocating, it seizes your mind and body, and no matter how much you try, you cannot shake it off. What is worse is that it eats away the memories of good things you have experienced before countering depression.”
Another frequently asked question is about the cause of depression. Like most mental health concerns, there is rarely a single factor causing depression. The reality is that a number of environmental, physiological, and genetic factors can contribute to and cause depression. Recent studies indicate that high levels of consistent stress may result in episodes of depression.
The treatment of depression is twofold, the first line of treatment being- talk therapy and then if required- medication. In general, there is stigma attached to seeking mental health assistance. However, delay in seeking treatment can result in worsening of symptomology and in some cases it can even result in suicidal ideation or a suicide attempts.
The isolation and the hopelessness felt when one suffers from depression, takes over all rational thought. The mind becomes a prison and the person becomes its prisoner. I often come across this question- I think my friend is depressed. What should I do or say?
I always respond the same way: ask the person experiencing depression, to not worry about offending someone. Make time for the person you are concerned about, do not push them to speak about the problem, but let them know you are there, if and when they want to talk. Finally, encourage them to seek help.
Everyone experiences depression at some point of time in their lives. When you feel low, everything seems harder. Factors that play instrumental role in recovery, are kindness, compassion, and non-judgment. Perhaps, if we implement these measures proactively, instead of behaving reactively, we can make our society a mentally healthier space to live.
Tanya Vasunia is a Psychologist and Outreach Associate at Mpower.