Most, if not all, of us would have experienced sadness at one point or another, and it is a normal. We feel sad when we encounter difficult life situations —This could be failing an exam, being teased by our friends, or even losing a loved one. In these instances, sadness is a mood which comes and goes, depending on the severity of the situation we are in.
In contrast, depression is a medical condition that affects how people think and behave, and the way they feel and function. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 264 million people of all ages worldwide suffer from depression. More importantly, it is not something that can be simply willed away.
Depression symptoms may vary from mild to severe. Five or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks may be a sign of depression:
- Persistent sadness or depressed mood
- Anhedonia: Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Loss in appetite leading to weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Feeling tired and lacking energy; increased fatigue
- Feeling agitated or restless
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Challenging life events can increase your risk of depression, especially when you have difficulty coping with them. These life stressors may include:
- Relationship problems
- Financial difficulties
- Physical illnesses
- Lack of support
- Loss of a loved one
Coping with Depression
Some adjustments to your lifestyle and actively working towards improving and managing your mood can effectively manage depression. Here are some useful tips:
- Spending time with friends and having fun
- Pursuing activities that you enjoy and are interested in
- Making time to relax and enjoy yourself
- Taking care of your physical health, such as regularly engaging in a physical activity you enjoy, eating a well-balanced meals, and getting sufficient sleep
- Organising your time so you feel in control
- Sharing your feelings with others or journaling
- Going to therapy
- Learning stress managements strategies
- Focusing on things to be grateful for
Fortunately, depression can be treated. Research has demonstrated that between 80% and 90% of people with depression are responsive towards treatment. With early and appropriate treatment, quality of life can be greatly improved. Some common ways to treat depression are:
- Antidepressant Medication
- Chemical imbalances in the brain may contribute to depressive symptoms
- Selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed to balance these brain chemicals
- Most effective for individuals who are prone to depression relapse
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to effectively treat depression
- Recognise unhelpful thinking patterns with the goal of changing thoughts and behaviours to respond to situations in more adaptive ways
Taken together, this helps the mental health professional derive a diagnosis and intervention plan, which may include just one or even multiple treatment options applied simultaneously.
Before a diagnosis or treatment, a medical professional should conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, including an interview, and a physical examination. Other physical and mental illnesses are also ruled out before diagnosing depression. This evaluation will identify specific symptoms and explore biological and environmental contributing factors.
Psychology Blossom is not a psychiatric clinic and thus does not prescribe nor carry medication. We refer our clients to Neuropsychiatry Associates whom we work closely with for psychiatric services.