Depression – What is it?
‘I am Fine’. That is what the mouth utters when someone checks on us. Most of us want to talk about it, sometimes scream internally, yell but end up saying the most acceptable response, I am fine. Depression is seen as an internal demon which should be hidden under a mask. But why? Is depression that uncommon?
According to WHO, 5% of adults globally suffer from depression. It is that common when the correct diagnosis is made. One of the major challenges or barriers of correct diagnosis is lack of trained healthcare professionals, social stigmas and lack of resources available.
To make it easier for you to understand what depression is and the changes it causes inside out, here is a diagrammatic representation of severity level and symptoms for reference.
Seeing the symptom chart, you must be considering you also have signs of depression. To make it more clear, in depression, a person experiences most of the signs and symptoms most of the day, almost every day for atleast two weeks. A person cannot and should not self-diagnose. Instead if the signs seem to be prevalent, a mental health professional (clinical psychologist/psychiatrist) should be contacted to diagnose, categorise in mild, moderate or severe category after taking into consideration current life stressors and individual’s functioning.
Common Factors leading to depression
Is mood fluctuation normal? – Yes, mood fluctuations are completely normal. No one person can be happy/sad all the time. It’s a blend of complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors.
· Unmet needs – Unmet needs in the areas of social, emotional, physical like food, housing, social support (family/friends/community), inclusion in society, respect, occupation, education etc can lead a person to question life and feeling discontented leading to further deterioration.
· Genetic History – A family history of any psychiatric disorder puts an individual at a risk of being affected by it even with small triggers in the future. The genetics are not as easily diagnosed or straightforward as other physical health conditions. The reason being psychological disorders are so many times left undiagnosed.
· Gender – Women are more prone to be affected by depression than men because of the biological composition, hormones and changes that take place within their bodies. This does not mean men cannot get depression, women can be easily triggered with life changes.
· Medications and Physical Disorders – Sometimes while seeking treatment, some medications may trigger mood fluctuations.
· Major Life Events or Conflicts – Major life changing events which may be considered positive (like job, marriage, moving to a new place etc) or negative (divorce, loss of a loved one, disputes in work or personal life etc) can lead to increased stress and changes in chemical composition in the body.
· Neurotransmitters and Nutrition – The mind-body balance is essential. Sometimes any chemical imbalance or deficiency may also trigger mood fluctuation and after blending with other external factors, it can lead to features of depression.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The experience and context of depression for each individual is different. It does not target any individual on the basis of their past, karma or economic status.
An individual, just like other physical health conditions, can manage the signs and symptoms of depression by reaching out to a trained, licensed professional from the field of mental health (clinical psychologists and psychiatrists).
Management of depression includes either psychological therapies or a blend of psychological and pharmacological management. A clinical psychologist takes care of the non-pharmacological management by focusing on holistic and eclectic talk therapy approaches, helping an individual become equipped with tools and skills to handle distress and for an overall healthy functioning. A Psychiatrist manages the pharmacological aspect of management with the help of medicines.
When is Depression not Treatable?
· Resistance from an individual to label any negative emotion/action/thoughts with psychiatric terminology under the guidance of the professional and not seeking help.
· Self-labelling as defective for feeling or experiencing negative emotions inside and out.
To sum it up, quoting David Mitchell from Cloud Atlas, what we professionals see depression as:
“You say you’re ‘depressed’ – all I see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn’t mean you’re defective – it just means you’re human.”Learn More