Doctor, I feel depressed!
"Doctor, I feel depressed" is a common presentation in any Psychiatry outpatient clinic. Depression is a disorder that is different from the usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. For a diagnosis of depression, one needs to have sustained sadness of mood for at least two weeks at a stretch!
Depression is a common illness with an estimated 350 million people affected. Those suffering over long periods may suffer immensely, affecting their work, family, and social performance. At its worst depression can lead to life-threatening situations such as suicide, which is one of the leading causes of death in the 15-29 years age group. An estimated eight Lacs lives are lost every year to suicide and it comes as a shock to everyone when we find a very popular figure losing out to depression. We cannot let this happen, even though "Depression is Treatable".
According to WHO, the key features of depression are sadness of mood, loss of interest in activities which were earlier enjoyable, reduced energy, along with other symptoms such as reduced concentration and attention, reduced self-esteem and self-confidence, pessimistic views of future (ideas of guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness and sometimes ideas of self-harm or suicide) along with disturbed sleep and diminished appetite.
Depression results from a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. Poverty alone does not give us depression as most people think. It does not spare any strata of the society and yes, the super-rich suffer too! Childhood experiences like early loss of a parent or abuse does leave a scar. Genetics has a major role to play. Many physical illnesses can increase our risk for depression-like Hypothyroidism, Severe Anemia, Vitamin D deficiency, etc. Many medicines used for treating other serious physical illnesses can also give us depression.
The social stigma attached to mental illnesses, fear of being labeled, and mocked prevents many from sharing their feelings/thoughts with close friends. Lack of mental healthcare professionals is another reason. Many movies have made fun of the mentally ill, showing the insensitive approach of people.
Depression is treatable. Depending upon the type and severity, treatment may include medicines and / or various kinds of psychotherapy. There is a need for empathy to help such patients recover. Alternate therapies should be avoided as first-line of treatment in patients with moderate to severe symptoms. It is best to consult a Psychiatrist to rule out any possible physical reasons and to decide about the need for medication and / or type of therapy to be carried out.