Depression is a medical illness that affects the individual’s thoughts, emotions and behavior. It may be caused by genetic, environmental, biological and psychological factors and occur at any age.
Risk factors may include:
- An individual’s personal or family history of depression.
- Extreme life changes
- Physical illnesses
- Medical problems such as erectile dysfunction or viruses like HIV
- Loss and grief
- Poor nutrition
- Drug use such as alcohol consumption
There are different types of ways in which depression can be seen:
- Persistent depressive disorder: this is when the individual experiences a fluctuation of severe to mild signs and symptoms continuously for a period of two years.
- Post-partum depression: experienced by women either during pregnancy or after giving birth.
- Psychotic depression: experienced by persons who have psychosis whereby they get delusions or hallucinations. A delusion is a false belief held by an individual, while hallucination refers to a perception of something that does not exist through our five senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell).
- Seasonal affective disorder: generally affected by seasons where sunlight is glum and ends when its bright and sunny.
- Bipolar disorder: this is not depression but brings about the characteristics due to the fact that some individual experiences extremes of both high and low spirits. During their low episodes, the individuals tend to suffer from major depression.
Depression is characterized by various signs and symptoms. However, it should be known that not all signs and symptoms can be represented in an individual. They vary from person to person hence a fairly good number of them manifesting should be looked into before matters go out of hand. They may also vary due to different stages of the illness. Signs and symptoms are as follows;
- Feelings of unexplained sadness for a prolonged period of time.
- Loss of hope leading to pessimism (a belief that bad things will happen).
- Feelings of being worthless or helpless.
- Frequent episodes of crying.
- Withdrawal from people and wanting to spend most of the time alone.
- Use of alcohol and other drugs as a coping mechanism or finding solace.
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities that an individual ones enjoyed.
- Feelings of constantly being tired.
- Restlessness whereby an individual is unable to stay still or in one place.
- Lack of concentration.
- Poor memory.
- Oversleeping or lack of sleep.
- Lack of sleep or increased appetite.
- Thoughts of death or suicide; in extreme cases, attempted suicide.
- Unexplainable body aches and pains.
- Headaches that are prolonged or recurrent.
- Digestive problems that do not stop even after treatment.
Depression can be treated with medication or psychotherapy. In other scenarios, both may be used. In the event that these two do not succeed, brain stimulations such as electro-convulsive therapy may be explored. It is a process that does not inflict any sort of pain to the patient. Antidepressants are prescribed to help in controlling and stabilizing the moods of an individual. However, only a medical practitioner, i.e psychiatrist, can identify the best that works on the particular individual. Psychotherapies include counselors, psychologists or life coaches dealing with the individual one-on-one.
It should be known that treatment has to be followed with extra effort from the individual in order to help in adjusting and maintaining a healthy life. The individual should be more active and exercise regularly in order to boost the natural production of “feel good” hormones that cause relaxation, spend more time with people who positively influence you, identify an individual whom you can confide in hence not suffering in silence, and postponing important decisions such as marriage, divorce and job changes.
An individual suffering from depression should practice the act of not thinking negative thoughts or using negative statements. Instead, he or she should start using only positive statements when referring to self or talking about anything else. This helps elevate the mood and reduce negativity hence positive response. Enough sleep and getting out into the sunlight can help boost one’s moods. People can also cope with depression through reading a good book, play with a pet, watch funny clips and comedies, take care of small tasks, and eating healthy meals.
Individuals who seek in-patient treatment may enroll in a rehabilitation Centre. The Centres also offer outpatient services. Counselors, life coaches and psychologists also assist in treatment of depression. Online platforms such as Mind My Mind in Kenya offer services that reach out to individuals through technology, that is video calls, or chats. Other internet platforms have been established to help individuals talk to someone in the event that they want to address an issue, through the help of experts.