Depression is a common medical condition that affects the human mind. It is characterized by a sense of persistent sadness, a loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys, and an inability to carry out everyday activities for at least two weeks at a stretch.
In 2018, the World Health Organisation identified India as the most depressed country in the world, followed by China and the USA. Furthermore, as per the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, one in every six people in India needs mental health help of some sort. This means that depression is a lot more common than we think.
Depression is Not the Same as Feeling Sad
The term ‘depressed’ or ‘depression’ is often used casually by individuals to indicate a temporary onset of sad feelings or bad moods. However, depression is very different from usual mood fluctuations, the blues, or short-lived emotional hardships individuals tend to face in everyday life.
Depression is a long-lasting medical condition. It can last anywhere between a few weeks to a few years and can affect different people differently, with symptoms varying when it comes to severity. The condition can be extremely debilitating and can greatly impact a person’s ability to function at work, at school, or in the family.
Identifying the Signs of Depression
While depression comes with a few noticeable signs, individuals affected may not always be able to identify these signs themselves. It is therefore important for each one of us, as family, friends, or work colleagues, to be sensitive and aware of the behaviour and habits of the people around us. The following signs can help us identify depression.
A Persistent Feeling of Hopelessness
Experiencing a persistent feeling of hopelessness is the most common symptom of depression. This may be accompanied by extreme feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and unnecessary guilt. While you may not be able to directly tell if a person has such feelings, watch out for statements such as “What’s the point?”, “I hate myself”, or “It’s all my Fault.”
Withdrawing from Activities They Once Enjoyed
Depression has the ability to take the pleasure or enjoyment out of the things you love and enjoy. Be mindful of how your loved ones are spending their day. Have they stopped spending fruitful time in activities they once enjoyed, such as playing sports or going out to meet friends? Withdrawing from hobbies or from socialising with friends could be a sign of depression.
Increased Fatigue and Sleep Problems
Depression often causes a lack of energy and a strong feeling of fatigue in individuals. As a result, you may notice that they sleep excessively. However, this may not always be the case. For some individuals, anxiety may lead to insomnia, causing them to get very little sleep.
Changes in Appetite and Weight
Depression can cause a complete and extreme flip in an individual's eating habits, with some experiencing a complete loss of appetite and others binge eating. As a result, you will notice a drastic change in their weight. Check whether your loved one’s eating habits are intentional or not. If they’re not intentional, this could be an indication of depression.
Depression is known to cause significant mood swings in individuals. The affected person can move from experiencing intense anger to sobbing uncontrollably in very little time without them even realising it. Men suffering from depression may become irritable or display escapist behaviours such as smoking and drinking. Keep an eye on your loved one’s emotional reactions to situations.
Frequent Physical Pains and Ailments
Depression can lead to headaches, chronic body aches, and body pain. As a result of heightened stress, it can also lead to a weakened immune system and heart ailments. In certain cases, recurrence of cardiovascular problems is linked more closely to depression than to other conditions such as smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Helping Your Loved One Through Depression
If left untreated, depression can cause risky behaviour, such as drinking, smoking or taking drugs in individuals. In extreme cases, it can also push individuals to commit suicide.
Keep in mind that the risk of depression is usually high when individuals face tough life situations such as unemployment, the death of a loved one, a relationship break-up, physical illness, or problems caused by alcohol and drug use.
Depression is very much treatable, but this treatment relies heavily on timely identification of symptoms. If any of the above-mentioned symptoms persist for more than two weeks, talk to your loved one and consider visiting a mental health specialist.