It is normal to feel unhappy, sad depressed. What makes it a disease is when we are overwhelmed by the emotion and feel helpless and unable to cope with it any longer.
According to WHO, globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from the disorder. Depression is a leading cause of disability around the world and contributes greatly to the global burden of disease.
WHAT DOES DEPRESSION REALLY MEAN?
The synonyms are sadness, melancholy, misery, unhappiness, sorrow, woe, gloominess, dejection, etc., and these are emotions we experience if we are alive. The problem with depression, anxiety and other mental illness is that is that they are normal feelings too. Emotions are on a continuum, and depression is no different. It is normal to feel unhappy, sad depressed. What makes it a disease is when we are overwhelmed by the emotion and feel helpless and unable to cope with it any longer. This is when the normal moves into the realm of illness, disease.
Clinical depression is extreme sadness or despair that lasts more than 14 days. It interferes with the activities of daily life and can cause physical symptoms such as pain, weight loss or gain, sleeping pattern disruptions, or lack of energy. People with depression may also experience an inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. It affects how you feel, think, and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.
The red flags, i.e., signs that something is wrong and the person may need professional help, are:
The person starts neglecting his/herself in terms of basic cleanliness, hygiene.
The person does not want to get up from bed and his/her sleep pattern changes—too much or too little sleep.
The person’s food and eating habits change.
Feeling excessively sad or low
Depression looks different in different people
Children with depression may be anxious, cranky, pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die.
Older children and teens with depression may get into trouble at school, sulk, be easily frustrated, feel restless, or have low self-esteem. Older children and teens are more likely to experience excessive sleepiness (called hypersomnia) and increased appetite (called hyperphagia).
Younger adults with depression are more likely to be irritable, complain of weight gain and hypersomnia, and have a negative view of life and the future.
Middle-aged adults with depression may have more depressive episodes, decreased libido, middle-of-the-night insomnia, or early morning awakening. They may also more frequently report having gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea or constipation.
Older adults with depression commonly experience sadness or grief or may have other less obvious symptoms. They may report a lack of emotions rather than a depressed mood.
For three decades, people have been deluged with information suggesting that depression is caused by a ‘chemical imbalance’ in the brain.
However, the latest research review shows that the evidence does not support it. (Prof Moncrieff and Horowitz, UCL Psychiatry). This puts a big question mark on the big pharma industry of anti-depressants being prescribed for depression and brings the spotlight back on the psychological, cultural, social, and biological factors and the complex interactions between them. This also means that counselling and therapy, alternative systems of healing, should be the mainstream line of treatment.
Dr Chavi Bhargava Sharma is the founder and CEO of Indic Center for Psychological Wellness and Holistic Health and Conversationists-Talking Cures.