According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people are fighting depression,some in secret and some unknowingly. In Kenya,many high school, university and college students are battling depression. It is therefore important to beware of depression and know how to prevent and deal with it as soon as possible.
What is Depression?
Depression is a constant feeling of sadness and loss of interest, which stops you from normal activities.
Types of Depression
- Clinical(major) Depression – This is a mental disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder – This is a mild but long-term form of depression.
- Bipolar Disorder – This is a disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.
- Bipolar II Disorder – This is a less severe type of bipolar disorder characterized by depressive and hypomaniac episodes.
- Postnatal Depression – This is a type of depression that occurs after childbirth
Causes of Depression.
- Abuse – Past physical,sexual or emotional abuse can increase the vulnerability to clinical depression later in life.
- Certain medications – Some drugs for example isotretinoin (used to treat acne), the antiviral drug interferon alfa, and corticosteroids can increase the risk of depression.
- Conflict – Depression in someone who has the biological vulnerability to develop depression may result from personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends.
- Death or loss – Sadness or grief from the death or loss of a loved one, though natural,may increase the risk of depression.
- Genetics – A family history of depression may increase the risk.The genetics of depression, like most psychiatric disorders,are not simple or straightforward as in purely genetic diseases like Huntington’s chorea or cystic fibroids.
- Major events –Even good events like starting a new job, graduating or getting married can lead to depression.So can moving, losing a job or income, getting divorced or retiring.However,the syndrome of clinical depression is never just a “normal” response to stressful life events.
- Other personal problems – Problems such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group can contribute to the risk of developing clinical depression.
- Serious illnesses – Sometimes depression co-exists with a major illness or may be triggered by another medical condition.
- Substance abuse – Nearly 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have clinical (major) depression.Even if drugs or alcohol temporarily make you feel better, they ultimately will aggravate depression.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Appetite or weight changes.
- Sleep changes -either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning or oversleeping.
- Anger or irritability-feeling agitated, restless or even violent.Your tolerance level is low, your temper short and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
- Self-loathing -strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt.You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults or mistakes.
- Reckless behavior
- Concentration problems
- Unexplained aches and pains-an increase in physical complaints such as headaches,back pain,aching muscles and stomach pain.
- Use of antidepressants
- Therapy i.e cognitive behavioural therapy, behavioural therapy and psychotherapy.
- Medication -SSRIs, antidepressants, anxiolytic and antipsychotic.
- Medical procedure -electroconvulsive therapy.
- Find ways to handle stress and improve your self esteem.
- Get involved in activities you enjoy for example writing, drawing, painting,dancing, singing that will keep your mind occupied.
- Take good care of yourself.Get enough sleep,eat well and exercise regularly.
- Reach out to family and friends when times get hard.
- Get regular medical checkups and see your provider if you don’t feel right.
- Get help if you think you are depressed.If you wait,it could get worse.
If you have depression,you can do a few things to keep it from getting worse
- Stick with your treatment plan.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.It may seem like these make you feel better,but they can actually make it harder to treat depression.
- Try ways to fight stress;like meditation,yoga or a quiet prayer time.
- Spend time with your family and friends.Think about joining a support group,get involved in church activities and generally do things that keep you connected to others
- Know yourself and love yourself
- Don’t make big life decisions on a day you are feeling down.
- Talk to your therapist or doctor about medicine that can stop depression from coming back.
Depression is not a sign of weakness. Do not hesitate to ask for help whenever you have any of the above signs and symptoms. It is okay not to be okay, so don’t feel ashamed of being depressed.We are all broken in one way or the other,we all need help from one another.We have lost so many friends and family members who committed suicide because they couldn’t take the pain of depression anymore.That has to stop,we have to save lives.We have to create awareness about depression and we have to learn to be there for those who are depressed.It is afterall better than typing Rest in Peace messages and quotes on social media once they’re gone.This is the time to make a difference,this is the time to fight depression together.