A very commonly heard term…..
But what it actually means?
How does it happen?
What are the treatment options?
Depression is a term very frequently heard in our daily lives through media, friends, etc. Some people consider a transitory sadness to be depression. But in real terms, depression is quite different from a mere sadness. Whenever there is a stressful situation like some financial loss or a bad result in exams, one is bound to feel sad. But we also start using strategies to calm ourselves simultaneously and try to find solutions to our problems. If our strategies work adequately, we usually come out of the phase of sadness gradually. At other times, sadness occurs spontaneously without any stressful situation and there is no reason to be found out. Here also, we come out of it gradually through our coping mechanisms.
Now what happens in depression is that these symptoms persist for long. The sadness is severe enough to hamper our daily activities and functioning. We start feeling so low that we don’t find interest in doing any activity. Meeting and talking to people becomes burdensome. We start preferring to stay alone most of the time. We begin feeling tired even after doing slight activities and it becomes difficult to carry out minor works also. Even while doing something, maintaining concentration becomes problematic. We lose focus easily and get distracted with the slightest of interruptions.
In many cases, it appears that we are not able to do anything. We start feeling useless and there are negative views about the future. Loneliness glooms and makes us feel helpless. Sometimes we also start having symptoms in the body like lethargy, body ache, headache etc. On slight provocation, tears start rolling through the eyes. In severe conditions, we become so disturbed that it appears easy to end life rather than continuing it. We start feeling that everyone is against us and we have become a kind of burden on everyone.
Coming to the causes, it appears that there are multiple causes for depression. First of all, we talk about biological causes. In simple terms, it can happen if we have any relative suffering from similar problems. There are some chemical changes in the brain which can also be a causative factor.
Second cause can be defined as psychological i.e., our thinking process, our coping mechanisms or our personality. To simply understand, if we see in our surroundings, there are people who face problems easily and others find that quite difficult. It is their basic thinking process which makes them act differently in similar situations. This thinking process is the result of the experiences, upbringing, support etc.
Lastly, there are social factors which impact the person significantly. Family, friends, school, education, work all impact our functioning and any disturbance in these domains can result in distress.
FINALLY, TREATMENT. As we have seen there are different causes, similarly there are different treatment options. Basically, once we have suspected the symptoms, we need a thorough evaluation. The evaluation involves proper history and tests so that we can reach to a proper treatment plan.
To conclude, I want to convey that these symptoms are pretty common among the general population. The main concern is that they are very frequently ignored and thus progress uncontrollably. Even if they are recognized, the person having those symptoms doesn’t get proper treatment. So, if we want to help our society and our friends and relatives, we must understand that depression is REAL and POTENTIALLY CURABLE. What is needed is just proper recognition and treatment by professionals trained to manage these illnesses.
Dr. Ankit Chaudhary
MBBS, MD (Psychiatry)