What is depression?

Depression is more than being sad or feeling grief after a loss. Depression is a medical condition, just like diabetes or heart disease. Day after day, depression affects your thoughts, feelings, physical health and behaviours. It affects normal day-to-day activities. For diagnostic purposes, a depressive episode must be experienced at a certain level of severity for a minimum duration of two weeks.

How prevalent is depression?

In India, the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 reveals that nearly 15% Indian adults need active intervention for one or more mental health issues and one in 20 Indians suffers from depression. It is estimated that in 2012, India had over 258,000 suicides, with the age-group of 15-49 years being most affected.

Who is at risk of developing depression?

These factors can increase the risk of developing or triggering depression:

  • Having relatives with depression
  • Being a woman
  • Having traumatic experiences as a child
  • Having family members who have committed suicide
  • Experiencing stressful life events
  • Having few friends or other personal relationships
  • Recently having given birth (postpartum depression)
  • Having a serious illness
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Taking certain medications (consult a doctor)

What are the risk factors/triggers for depression?

It’s unknown exactly what causes depression. There are a variety of potential factors:

  • Family history and genetics — inherited traits, including psychological vulnerability, and relatives with depression
  • Life events, such as a loss of a loved one, financial problems, medical illness or high stress
  • Biological factors unique to the individual, as well as hormonal changes due to physical conditions
  • Early childhood trauma

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Sad mood
  • Preoccupation with past failures or inadequacies
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feelings of uselessness, hopelessness, excessive guilt
  • Slowed thinking, forgetfulness, difficulty
  • concentrating, difficulty in making decisions
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies, people
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Changes in weight and appetite — eating too little or too much
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • Decreased sexual drive
  • Thoughts of death, dying or suicide

What do I need to tell my doctor?

  • Write down any symptoms you’ve had
  • Write down key personal information
  • Make a list of all medications you are taking
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor
  • Take a family member or friend along

Discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor and describe how they are affecting your life (e.g. inability to get out of bed and get to work/school). Your doctor can suggest or provide appropriate therapy. Make sure to discuss all of the available treatments and medications and their benefits and side effects before making any decisions.

What are the treatment options for depression?

The most common forms of treatment for depression are antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. The most effective treatment is generally a combination of both. Some individuals suffering from depression may need a hospital stay or an outpatient treatment program until symptoms improve.

There are several types of antidepressant medication available, and they are categorized by how they work on the naturally occurring chemicals in your brain that affect your mood. Finding the right medication or medications will likely take trial and error. Patience is required, as some medications need eight weeks or more to take full effect, but don’t give up if you don’t find the right medication right away.

Complementary treatment, such as peer support groups or other support programs, may be helpful.

Finally, additional treatments such as massage, mindfulness meditation, shiatsu, therapeutic touch, aromatherapy, tai chi, Pilates and yoga can also help to improve wellness.

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