Health Issues by Dr. Fikayo Haastrup-Sode
Depression is a common and debilitating mood disorder. More than just sadness in response to life’s struggles and setbacks, depression changes how you think, feel, and function in your everyday life. It can interfere with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life.
While some people describe depression as “being stuck under a huge black cloud” or having a feeling of impending doom, others feel lifeless and empty. No matter how depression is experienced, left untreated, depression can become a serious health condition.
Common signs and symptoms of depression:
Depression can vary from person to person, but there are common signs and symptoms. The common symptoms of depression include:
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
Loss of interest in daily activities. You don’t care anymore about former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
Appetite or weight changes: Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
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.
Loss of energy: Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
Self-loathing: Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
Reckless behaviour: You engage in escapist behaviour such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
Unexplained aches and pains: An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
While some illnesses have a specific medical cause, making treatment straightforward, depression is more complex. Depression is not just the result of chemical imbalance in the brain that can be cured with medication. It is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, social and genetic factors.
Risk factors that make you more vulnerable to depression include: Loneliness and isolation, Lack of social support, Recent stressful life experiences, Family history of depression, Marital or relationship problems, Financial strain, Early childhood trauma or abuse, Alcohol or drug abuse, Unemployment or under-employment, Health problems or chronic pain.
What you can do to feel better: When you are depressed, it can feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But there are many things you can do to lift and stabilize your mood. Treatment for depression usually involves a combination of self-help, talking therapies and medicines. Self-help includes regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, volunteering or carrying out hobbies.
Talking therapies include consulting a therapist who can provide you tools to treat depression from a variety of angles and motivate you to take the action necessary. Medications known as antidepressants are tablets that treat the symptoms of depression. There are almost 30 different types of antidepressant. They must be prescribed by a doctor, usually for depression that is moderate or severe.