The Philosophy of Depression

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When the symptoms of sadness grow stronger with time, it’s time to seek medical help. Kavita, a practicing psychologist, tells us about depression, its symptoms among men, women, and teenagers. Stress and rat race cause various kinds of depressions. She also tells us how to handle this malice, in the regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Many people use the term “depression” to describe feelings of struggle and helplessness. Sadness, feeling empty, apathetic and the like. But depression is much more than this. The normal ups and downs of life mean that everyone feels sad from time to time. But if this emptiness or despair seems to persist for a long time, you may have depression. Depression makes it tough to enjoy life as before. Even getting by the day seems impossible.

Some Signs of Depression

  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness: The feeling that nothing will improve in life, is predominant.
  • Loss of Interest in daily activities: There is no interest in earlier pastimes and hobbies. The feelings of joy and pleasure are lost.
  • Appetite and weight changes: There could be significant weight loss or gain.
  • Sleep Patterns change: There could be either insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping).
  • Anger or irritability: There could be a lot of anger, restlessness, or violence involved.
  • Loss of energy: Feeling tired or fatigued, sluggish and drained physically. The body may feel heavy and even small tasks take long to complete.
  • Feelings of worthlessness: Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Criticising and blaming oneself.
  • Dangerous behaviour: Person may engage in substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving or life-threatening sports.
  • Discomforts in the body: Unexplained aches and pains like headaches, back pain, stomach pains, muscular pains etc.
  • Concentration problems: There may be trouble focusing, making decisions or remembering things.
  • Suicidal feelings: Talking about killing or harming oneself. Extreme mood swings, saying goodbye often, wishing for death etc.

Depression in Different People

  • In men: Depressed men are less likely to acknowledge feelings of low self-worth, hopelessness. They are likely to complain about fatigue, loss of interest in work and daily activities and disturbed sleep patterns. Older men are at a higher risk of depression.  In women: The risk of depression in women is twice as that of men. This can be due to hormonal factors, like PMS, postpartum depression etc. Women are more likely to overeat, feel guilty, and sleep excessively.
  • In Teens: Irritability is a predominant symptom in teens. A depressed teenager may exhibit feelings of hostility, grumpiness, and violent temper. There could be problems in school and home, drug abuse, homicidal tendencies.
  • In older adults: Factors such as bereavement, loss of independence and health issues can lead to depression in older adults. Lack of a strong support system can make matters worse. They tend to complain more about physical distress.
  • Postpartum depression: Many new mothers may feel strained in the early days after delivery. The delivery stress coupled with looking after the newborn can make coping difficult. If these feelings extend over six months after delivery, it is classified as having PPD.

The Different Types of Depression

Different types of depression have unique symptoms.

  • Major depression: This is characterised by the inability to enjoy life and experience happiness. The symptoms may range between moderate to severe. This can last for approximately six months, if left untreated. It can become a reoccurring disorder.
  • Recurrent mild depression (dysthymia): This is a type of chronic low low-graderession. One might feel mildly or moderately depressed, amidst brief periods of normal moods. This can be treated.
  • Bipolar disorder: This is characterised by cyclical mood changes. Episodes of depression alternating with manic episodes, which can include impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, rapid speech, and little or no sleep. The treatment for this differs from others types of depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Seasonal depression is known as SAD. With the onset of winter, some people experience mood swings. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, tension and stress seep in. This usually begins in fall or winter.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Loneliness
  • Family history of depression
  • Early childhood abuse or trauma
  • Lack of social support
  • Financial issues
  • Unemployment
  • Bereavement or grief
  • Health issues
  • Stressful life experiences
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Marital problems

Recovery from Depression

  • Form support groups: It is important to form a good friends circle, family support and the like. When symptoms occur, talking to the support groups help in reducing the severity.
  • Make healthy lifestyle changes: Get regular exercise and sleep. Eat nutritious food. Learn to break the negative thought patterns. Manage stress with help of a professional or support groups.
  • Manage emotions: Building emotional skills, to manage stress. It is important to learn to address the symptoms in the beginning stages itself.
  • Seek professional help: If you find that support groups and family are not helping you much, it’s time to seek medical help.

Problems in Seeking Medical Help

  • Being unaware: Depression is a disease of withdrawal. Somebody has to take the initiative to take the patient for checkups. Fixing appointment for the patient, accompanying them would be ideal as disbelief reigns.
  • Denial: Sometimes repeated exposure may be required for the patient to accept the idea that he is depressed. Support groups must not give up in between.
  • Resistance: The patient accepts that he is depressed but refuses medical treatment or professional help.
  • Acceptance: This is the stage where the patient is in a position to take the responsibility of his treatment and management of depression.

Depression need not be an end in itself. The person is not doomed for life. When the patient accepts the diagnosis and takes responsibility for his treatment, he may soon be on the road to recovery.

©Kavita Paynam

Photos from the internet.

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Kavita Panyam is a Counselling Psychologist by profession and a freelance writer by passion. She has won competitions in various magazines for slogan writing, reviews, and several blogging competitions. Her work has been published in reputed magazines across India and abroad. She writes for several well-known ezines and for print magazines. She also features as a guest contributor for various websites.