Mom says, “Happy is a decision”
But my ‘happy’ is as hollow as a pinpricked egg
My ‘happy’ is a high fever that will break
Mom says I am so good at making something out of nothing, and then flat out asks me if I am afraid of dying
No Mom I am afraid of living
-Sabrina Benaim, Explaining Depression to My Mother
I couldn’t find a better way to start this discussion. Depression is a very misunderstood term. People often confuse depression with sadness. Sadness is a feeling. Depression is a disorder. About 264 million people across the globe suffer from depression. And when I say this number, I mean these many people were diagnosed. There’s a huge social stigma associated with mental health. People hesitate to acknowledge their mental issues. The end result is about 800,000 people dying from suicide every year.
Depression: the slow poison
We all feel sad, sometimes or the other. But, the fact is that sadness is only a very small part of depression. Surprisingly, some people with depression do not feel sadness at all. The causes and symptoms of depression are very different from what’s expected.
Depression usually starts with the feeling of being tired all the time. You lose the ability to put in an effort. You start losing interest even in the things that you loved doing. This inability to work then leads to a feeling of hopelessness. Here, the attitude of the people around you matters. There can be two kinds of people. First, who constantly reminds you of your deterioration at work. And second, who realize and try to help. The first group of people makes the situation worse. They do not acknowledge depression as a real problem. And unfortunately, most people around us belong to this group. This constant reminder can aggravate the feeling of hopelessness. It also leads to a feeling of helplessness. You do not feel safe discussing your issues with anyone.
In fact, about 76-85% of the affected people, do not take medical help. You slowly lose your appetite and finally, your will to live.
Clinical manifestations of Depression
Not all people with depression die of suicide though. Sometimes there are extremely serious clinical manifestations like cardiovascular diseases. Besides, a lot of other changes in the body take place. According to studies, these include:
- Neurochemicals: Elevated catecholamine metabolites in blood, urine, and CSF. In depressed patients, there is a lesser uptake of platelet serotonin.
- Hormones and blood cells: Eosinophil count, plasma cortisol levels, are all higher in depressed patients. ACTH hormone also measures higher in depressed people.
- Antibodies: IgG and IgA were significantly higher in depressed subjects.
- Urinary melatonin: Melatonin levels are associated with suicide.
- Genetics: Genetic factors also play a role in depression.
- Lipids: Cholesterol levels rise in depressed patients compared to others.
Depression thus is a slow poison. Like an evil octopus, it slowly yet steadily ties you in its tentacles.
Depression treatment: Is it possible?
The major issue in depression is the diagnosis. Depression is a treatable disorder. The first step in treatment is to go to a doctor. Correct diagnosis is the key. The doctor/professional performs a series of tests. These tests can appropriately determine whether or not you have depression. Once diagnosed, therapies or medication can be used for treatment.
Anti-depressants treat depression. They can take 2 to 4 weeks to work. Antidepressants can have side effects, but many side effects may lessen over time. It is important to keep in touch with the medical provider the entire time. Appropriate doses have to be taken.
These help in achieving new ways of thinking. It addresses the behaviors or lifestyles, which might have caused depression. Therapy helps to deal with stressful situations.
Brain stimulation therapies
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies are an option. This is usually used in people who do not respond to medications. ECT is the best-studied brain stimulation therapy. It has the longest history of use.
Thus, a lot of therapies are available. All you need to do is gather the courage to go get help.
Depression management: What to do?
If someone you know is suffering:
In this case, you have a very important role to play. Remember, you have to provide a safe environment for your friend. You should always be approachable, understanding, and encouraging. You should also be very careful about what he/she is saying. If you sense suicidal thoughts, report to the therapist. Make sure he/she is going for his treatment regularly. Also, try to take him/her out for walks and have light conversations.
If you are suffering:
Try to stay as active as possible. I know it’s easier said than done. But such small efforts on your part can help you a lot. Try being around people who understand you. Talk to them whenever you feel like it. Try keeping away from drugs, alcohol, tobacco. Go for your therapy regularly. And believe, that one day you will get rid of this dark feeling forever.
Sadness and depressions are often used as interchangeable terms. This is clearly not the case. Depression is often not considered a valid health issue. Mainly because visible physical ailments are missing and mental health is highly stigmatized. Depression is a poison that starts with fatigue, followed by inactivity, hopelessness, helplessness, loss of appetite, and loss of the will to live. Besides suicide, cardiovascular diseases can also cause death in depressed patients. Besides a number of biochemical modifications in the body occur due to depression.
Luckily, depression is treatable. A number of treatment procedures are available. These are medications, psychotherapist, and ECT. Not the same treatment technique works for all the patients. Finally, the management of depression is very important. If your acquaintance is depressed, then you have a huge responsibility to fulfill. If you are suffering from depression, believe in yourself. Battling depression is teamwork, and we all can together do it.
- An overview of Indian research in depression (National Center for Biotechnology Information)
- Depression (WHO)
- Depression Basics (National Institute of Mental Health)
- What Is Depression? (American Psychiatric Association)
- Explaining my depression to my mother: a conversation (Genius)
- Depression: Symptoms and Treatment