Clinical Depression by – Dr. Seema ShahDr Seema Shah
‘I am feeling very depressed/sad today ‘, haven’t we all felt and said a number of times? Feeling sad and lonely when we are going through a difficult time is a part of being human. However we do continue to function Knowing that we would bounce back, and we do. In contrast, Clinical or Major Depression is a medical condition that goes beyond life’s ordinary ups and downs. WHO’s latest global health estimates on depression state that over 5 crore Indians suffer from depression and the number is only increasing.
People with depression cannot simply ‘ pull themselves together’ / ‘snap out of it ‘/ or ‘just forget it ‘ and get going. They need a holistic approach of treatment which includes both medications and psychotherapy.
Having said that how does one identify that a relative/ friend is going through depression and needs help?
Common symptoms of depression are:
. Depressed mood, sadness or an empty feeling, appearing sad or tearful to others.
. Loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed eg.. reading, playing a sport etc
. Significant weight loss or gain. (More than 5%body weight in a month)
. Inability to fall asleep or excessive sleeping.
. Restlessness or irritability.
. Fatigue or lethargy
. Aches and pains, headaches.
. Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, helplessness, guilt.
. Difficulty in concentration, thinking, and indecisiveness.
. Recurrent thoughts of suicide or attempts of suicide.
One need not have all the above symptoms. If a person has even five or more of the above symptoms for most of the day, nearly everyday for at least two weeks and the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with one’s daily activities, one must see a mental health professional immediately.
Not everyone with Depression will have the same symptoms. They vary in severity, duration and how often they occur.
Depression affects not only adults and teens but also children. It is twice as common in women than men due to hormonal changes in puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
- Tests to rule out medical conditions that may cause depressive symptoms eg thyroid dysfunction, anaemia, calcium and vitamin D deficiency.
- Blood tests to check electrolytes, liver and kidney functions as kidneys and liver are responsible for elimination of Depression medications.
- CT scan or MRI Brain to rule out any brain tumors.
- Electrocardiogram ECG to diagnose heart problems and electroencephalography to record electrical activity of the brain .
Clinical Depression is a serious but treatable illness.
- Depending upon the severity of symptoms and presence of other medical conditions an antidepressant is prescribed by a Psychiatrist.
- Use of psychotherapy.
- Lifestyle changes including regular exercise, sleep hygiene and healthy eating habits.
- Yoga and meditation.
Frequent doubts about Psychiatry treatment
- “I will be stigmatized against” – not relevant in today’s times as more and more eminent people are coming forth with their experiences with the illness which has helped in creating awareness about Psychiatric illnesses and increasing their acceptance.
- ‘ I will get addicted to the medications”.. antidepressant medications are not addictive. They do not give a high or induce craving.
- “I will have to take the medicines lifelong”- in order to be effective the antidepressants are prescribed for a period of 6 months to a year for those who are being treated for the first time.I The Psychiatrist will monitor and taper and then stop the medications gradually.
- “ I can avoid getting Depressed”- Depression is not an infectious disease but surely having a healthy lifestyle will help our body release the feel good hormone ‘endorphins ‘ and one would be in a healthy mental state.
Dr. Seema Shah
Inamdar Multispeciality Hospital