By Ilse Watson
Very few depressed people have the resolve to get up and do something when they are so depressed that nothing really matters anyway.
Not everything in life goes perfectly all the time. It is normal for people to have periods when they are feeling low, but depression is not that – it overshadows everything and sucks the joy out of life.
For some people, their depression is so severe that having a positive outlook is impossible. Major Depressive Disorder, or clinical depression, affects not only the person but also those close to them.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 300 million 300 million people around the world live with depression and the South African Depression and Anxiety group (SADAG) says that one in 10 people will suffer from depression at some time.
Who gets depression?
The specific causes of depression are multi-factorial and often result as a merging of several different factors.
“For some people, there is a genetic or family history of depression. This is often compounded by environmental and lifestyle stressors, for example, stressful relationships or substance abuse. Often, there is a background of trauma in that person’s life,” explains Dr Mike West, a Cape Town (South Africa) psychiatrist.
According to Dr Antoinette Miric, a psychiatrist from Johannesburg (South Africa), people get depressed due to certain areas (which control mood, sleep and appetite) in the brain that are not functioning as they should. “People are born with a genetic vulnerability to developing depression. Sudden stressful events will result in the brain ‘not being able to cope'”, she says.
Medical illnesses, like stroke, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, TB and others can trigger depression. Some medications or treatments can cause depression or make it worse.
Signs and symptoms of depression
- Feeling sad, anxious, hopeless about life or “empty” most of the time.
- A loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed.
- Changes in sleeping habits – sleeping more than usual or sleeping less.
- Gaining weight or losing a lot of weight.
- Feeling slow or fatigued.
- Experience restlessness, irritability, anger and difficulty concentrating.
How is depression treated?
Depression is treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) and norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI’s). Also, atypical and try-cyclic anti-depressants are prescribed.
In an article, ‘Depression Treatment‘, the best way to treat depression is to become as informed as possible about the treatment options. Other treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy.
“It is important to understand that anti-depressants treat the symptoms of depression, but cannot always make a person completely better. Treatments for depression reduces the risk of suicidal thinking or suicidal behaviour but are not a panacea for a cure,” concludes Dr West.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), provides the following 10 at-home treatments that can help with depression:
- Follow a routine: Get out of bed and get dressed every day. Schedule times for relaxation – remember the things you once enjoyed doing – even if you just spend 15 minutes doing these activities.
- Set goals: Keep them simple and realistic. Do the tasks that you can and don’t beat yourself up if you fail.
- Exercise: Any form of exercise, however small, is beneficial.
- Eat well and avoid unhealthy habits: Eat small snacks and not large meals. Drink lots of water. Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Get a good night’s sleep: If you have trouble sleeping, avoid exercise and caffeine after 17:00. Steer clear of non-prescription sleeping pills. If needed, ask your doctor for something to help you sleep.
- Educate yourself: Learn as much as you can about your illness.
- Join a support group: It is liberating to go somewhere you can talk and no one judges. It also serves as a place to get great advice.
- Do volunteer work: Help others. Go to a school, hospital, an old age home or hospice and find out what they need. Remember that you are important in your community.
- Keep a journal: Write your feelings down. It will help to put things into perspective.
- Don’t do anything rash: Avoid making big decisions, such as changing jobs until you feel better.
Louise Bolton, a psychologist from Johannesburg, says: “One really does need to take note of the way you think. A depressed person can easily be overly self-critical, does not consider themselves worthy and feels inadequate in front of others. They are incredibly hard to themselves.”
There is no single recipe for helping yourself when you are in a severe depressive phase. It is important that you want to create a first step that you can build the next little step on.