What is Depression and Can it be Treated?

Unfortunately, the word depression is thrown around carelessly to mean any deeply negative or low feelings. The general lay population considers any form of psychological pain (such as grief and sadness) as depression. Such misconceptions might mislead you into thinking that being depressed simply describes having momentary feelings of sadness or feeling down. When you experience grief or heartbreak, you might self-diagnose yourself with depression.

However, it is more complex than stress, sadness, loneliness, or a lack of enthusiasm. Stress as a result of the death of a loved one, job loss, relationship problems and other issues are triggers, but everyone will not suffer from depression as a result. Two people can be in the same adverse situation and one of them develops depression while another does not. Therefore, it is important to know the difference between depression and temporary negative emotions.

Read more: Habits to Improve Mental Health

Read The Big Dilemma-Do Life or Quit Life? for more info on dealing with suicidal thoughts and depressive symptoms.

What is depression?

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describes depression as a group of “depressive disorders.” It is a serious class of mental health disorders and the World Health Organization recognises it as a public health issue. Depression results when there is an issue with brain chemicals which influence mood and pain. It’s not a mere feeling as in “feeling depressed.”

Symptoms

The major symptoms of depression include negative moods, physical pain and cognitive imbalances which affect an individual’s normal daily functioning and last more than two weeks. The presence of 5 or more symptoms daily or frequently as observed by yourself of significant others.

Emotional symptoms

The experience of negative emotions is a natural part of human life. It’s unreasonable to give an amateur diagnosis of depression to everyone who is feeling low.

  • persistent sadness
  • irritability
  • worthlessness
  • excessive guilt
  • hopelessness
  • losing interest in life or pleasurable activities of life
  • frequent thoughts of suicide or wishing for death

Physical symptoms

Depression can lead to physical pain or worsen the presentation of physical illness in your body. These are the most common effects on your body:

  • sleep problems like lack of sleep (insomnia) or excessive sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • fatigue and low energy
  • persistent headaches or other bodily pain which doesn’t go away with treatment
  • appetite problems like decreased or excessive appetite
  • drastic weight loss or weight gain

Cognitive symptoms

Impaired functioning in daily life and mental tasks, which come naturally to the human being, can be a symptom of depression. Thus, the symptoms affect your academics, career, hobbies and simple daily activity like doing the dishes or bathing. If other causes of cognitive impairment are ruled out, then depression might be the underlying issue.

  • thwarted concentration
  • difficulty in decision-making
  • thought dysfunctions

Seek Medical Diagnosis and Treatment for Depression

Like other illnesses, the severity and presentation of symptoms of depression and responsiveness to different treatments vary from one person to another. This mental illness is treatable and non-fatal if you find proper support and help. Although some people manage it without professional mental health treatment, it is advisable to seek treatment if you suspect you are depressed.

A professional diagnosis will ascertain whether you are suffering from clinical depression, which needs further care, or not. Also, it will decrease the chances of misdiagnosis or mismanaging the symptoms since there are many forms of depressive disorders based on different sets of symptoms.

Some symptoms of physical illnesses (e.g. weight loss, insomnia) are also symptoms of depression. Furthermore, symptoms of other mental illnesses can co-occur with symptoms of depression. Therefore, get a professional assessment to know if you have another mental or physical condition which requires medical attention.

Also read: How to Know that You Need Mental Health Treatment

The major obstacle to seeking treatment for most mental illnesses is the stigma associated with mental health conditions. We are afraid of being seen as mentally unfit. We hide our depression and try to mask it to appear “normal.” Stop being afraid of the ignorant misconceptions about mental illness. Being depressed is not a weakness or a flaw on your part. Anyone can suffer from depression. It’s a mental health problem which you can manage with proper support and care. But you can only find this support if you seek it, rather than denying that you have a problem.

Life is for living. Keep living. Don’t give up.

Read The Big Dilemma-Do Life or Quit Life? for more info on dealing with suicidal thoughts and depressive symptoms.

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