Bhave Institute of Mental Health

Bhave Institute of Mental Health

Depression Decoded

Depression is undoubtedly the most well-known mental health disorder. The use of the term ‘depression’ has almost become trendy now. But what does it really mean to suffer from depression? Does being sad for couple of hours qualify as depression? Does it mean that if you can smile & soldier through your day, you are not depressed? Is depression always stress related? Let us look at answer to these questions.

Global prevalence of depression in adults is 5% which means 1 in 20 adults all over the world suffer from depression. The numbers in Indian studies vary from 5% to 15% of our population. This has made depression one of the most common ailments in the country. Having said that, we need to develop a deeper understanding of why it is caused and how it can be dealt with.

Diagnostic guidelines include some of these symptoms for at least two weeks to make a diagnosis of depression

  • Sadness or low mood most of the day, nearly every day; feeling empty, hopeless, tearful.
  • Markedly reduced interest or pleasure in activities which were previously liked (eg. hobbies, socializing)
  • Feeling tired, dull most of the time; experiencing inertia & loss of motivation
  • Significant weight loss i.e. a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month. In some cases weight gain an also occur. This is associated with decrease or increase in appetite.
  • Lack of sleep (in some cases, it could be excess sleepiness)
  • Reduced ability to think, concentrate, difficulty in making decision (even small things like what to wear or what to eat.); second guessing the decision made
  • In severe cases, recurrent thoughts of death; suicidal ideas, plans or attempts

Which are the conditions that can lead to depression? As per common knowledge, stress is one of the most common triggers of depression. Any emotional trauma (for eg. death of a loved one, separation or divorce, financial crises, academic setback etc.). certain adverse childhood events can predispose to developing depression later in life (for eg. death of parents, parental separation, abuse etc.) However apart from above mentioned stressors, there are other causes for developing depression. Some are

– Genetic tendency i.e. patients might inherit the illness. It is not essential that only parental illness will increase the risk. Presence of depression in extended family can predispose an individual.

– Presence of chronic or disabling medical illness (heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, cancer etc.)

– Nutritional deficiencies (vitamin B12,B6, vitamin D3)

Hormonal dysfunction (thyroid, hypothyroid, cortisol etc.)

As a side effect of certain medicines (steroids, anti-TB drug, anti-cancer drugs etc.)

Secondary to neurologic illness (Parkinson disease, head injury, epilepsy, tumors etc.)

How do we deal with it? The first step is to recognize that a person is having depression. Reaching out to a mental health professional (a psychiatrist or a psychologist) is a must. Treatment modalities can include lifestyle modification, counseling or when required, medications.

A big part of depression is feeling really lonely, but help can definitely be provided if you reach out.

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