Depression: The Silent Stalker

Depression has many names and wears many different faces. It is a successful CEO of a multimillion dollar company, a famous celebrity worshipped by fans all over the world, it is the sweet old lady in church who seems quite fulfilled serving her community, or a seemingly happy young mother of three.

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Depression is guised in many ways. You won’t easily see it no matter how many times you bump into it. It is deceitful, a silent stalker that affects more than 350 million people across the globe. It is the world’s leading cause of disability, a major contributor to diseases and a leading cause of suicide. Suicide affects people, both men and women, in all types of communities.

What is depression?
Depression is used to describe various and often overlapping feelings and experiences. For most people, being depressed means being sad, low in spirits, detached, or upset. However, you can have all of these feelings without being clinically depressed. Feeling sad or blue at times is normal and has little effect on normal functioning.

Clinical depression, on the other hand, is more than simply feeling dejected or unhappy for a few days. It is a long-lasting emotional, physical and cognitive state that has significant and detrimental multifaceted effects on a person’s life. People suffering from depression feel persistently sad for weeks and even for months, causing them to function poorly at home, school or work.

Depression isn’t something to be ashamed of or to be guilty about. It isn’t a character flaw, a sign of weakness, or a lack of personal strength. It is not something you can just snap out of by pulling yourself together.

But take heart; depression is not permanent. A person suffering from depression can make a full recovery with the right treatment and support.

How is depression recognized?
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person. Some people may have signs and symptoms, while others may have none at all. At its mildest, depression could cause a persistent feeling of sadness. At its worst, depression can make a person feel suicidal and that life is no longer worth living.

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According to the World Health Organization, there are about one million suicide deaths every year, . That accounts for 3500 deaths each day. Depression is a leading cause of suicide. This underscores the importance of recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression before it becomes a serious mental health condition.

Below are the most common signs of depression:
– Feelings of hopelessness;
– A persistent feeling of sadness, anxiety and emptiness;
– Pessimism (e.g. glass is half empty, things are bound to get worse);
– Feelings of hopelessness;
– Irritability;
– Restlessness;
– fatigue or lower levels of energy;
– changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping too little or too much);
– changes in eating habits (eating too little or too much);
– may complain of more aches and pains, headaches cramps or digestive problems, which do not get better with treatment;
– may lose interest in things once enjoyed;
– may lose interest in sex;
– difficulties in concentrating, remembering details and making decisions;
– Constant talking or thinking about death; and
suicidal thoughts may occur, with others acting on it.

When to see a doctor
It’s important to see your doctor if you think you’re depressed. Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression. However, the sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you’ll be on your way to recovery.

How is depression treated?
Treatment for depression involves talking therapies, medications or a combination of these. The kind of treatment your doctor will recommend depends on the type of depression you have.

Mild depression
Some people with mild depression simply wait for their depression to improve by itself. This is known as the “wait and see method,” in which case you’ll be seen by your doctor after two weeks to monitor your progress. Your doctor may also suggest an exercise routine to help you out of your depression and/or a support group to help you talk through your feelings.

Mild to Moderate Depression
If your mild depression isn’t improving or you have moderate depression, your doctor might recommend you to go through talking treatments, which is a form of psychotherapy. There are various types of talking therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you to manage your current problems by changing the way you think and behave, and counseling, which allows you to talk about your problems with a counsellor who may be able to help you deal with the negative feelings that you have.

Moderate to Severe Depression
Your doctor might suggest a combination of talking therapy plus a course of antidepressants, most particularly if you have severe depression. You may also be referred to a mental health team that consists of a psychologist, a psychiatrist, occupational therapists and specialist nurses. Your mental health team will provide you intensive specialist talking treatments and prescribed medication.

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