Depression : what you need to know

By Glory Bartholomew and Hirhyel Adamu

Depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. Depression is a state of mind producing serious, long term lowering of enjoyment of life or inability to visualize a happy future. Depression is not a sign of weakness, the risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, life events such as the death of a loved one or a relationship break up, physical illness and problems caused by alcohol and drug use. Depression causes mental anguish and can impact on peoples ability to carry out even simplest everyday tasks, sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends, untreated depression can prevent people from working and participating in family and community life. At worst, depression can lead to suicide.

When a person has depression, it interfers with daily life and normal functioning. It can cause pain for both the person with depression and those who care about him or her. Doctors call this condition “depressive disorder” or clinical depression. Sadness is only a small part of depression, some people with depression may not feel sadness at all. Depression has many other symptoms including physical ones. If you have been experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression. Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, lost of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, decreased energy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in the teens or early twenties or thirties. Most chronic mood and anxiety disorder in adults begins as high level of anxiety in children. Infact, high level of anxiety as a child could mean a higher risk of depression as an adult. Depression can co-occur with other serious medical illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Depression can make these conditions worse, sometimes medications taken for these illnesses may cause side effect that contribute to depression. A doctor experienced in treating these complicated illnesses can help work out the best treatment strategy. There are several types of depressive disorders which include major depression, persistent depression, seasonal affective disorder, bipolar disorder, not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptoms, and only a few symptoms, and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage.

Depression is more common among women than men. Biological, life cycle, hormonal, and psychological factors that are unique to women may be linked to their higher depression rate. For example, women are especially vulnerable to developing post partum depression after giving birth when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. Men often experience depression differently than women. While women with depression are more likely to have feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, men are more likely to be very tired, irritable, lose interest in once pleasurable activities, and have difficulty sleeping. Men may turn to alcohol drugs when they are depressed. They also may become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, angry, and sometimes abusive.

A child with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent or worry that a parent may die. Because normal behaviours may vary from childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary phase or is suffering from depression.

Depression is treatable, even the most severe cases, can be treated, the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it is. Most adults see an improvement in their symptoms when treated with antidepressant drugs, talk therapy, (psychotherapy), or a combination of both. Depression is also treated with medicines talk therapy (where a person talks with a trained professional about his or her thoughts and feelings. Overcoming the stigma often associated will lead to more people getting help. Talking to people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression, and also when a person is always cheerful suddenly becomes reserved and moody, we should try and ask question and find out the reason, it can help in reducing the number of people that are depressed.

By Glory Bartholomew and Hirhyel Adamu students of Mass communication university of Maiduguri.

SOURCE: The Nigerian Voice (opinions)