Depression is a mood disorder that is characterised by persistent feeling of sadness and worthlessness.
According to Dr Ifeyinwa Blossom Uma-Kalu, Principal Medical Officer, Government House Clinic, Abia State, depression “is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act, so the person begins to have suicidal tendencies since he believes life is worthless. Fortunately, it is treatable.”
“Women are more likely than men to experience depression. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime,” she added.
Is depression the same with sadness or grief/bereavement?
Dr Uma-Kalu said despite some overlap between grief, sadness and depression, they are all different, adding that distinguishing between them could help people get the help, support or treatment they needed.
She said: “The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the end of a relationship are difficult experiences for a person to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe themselves as being “depressed.”
“But being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities. They are also different in important ways:
“In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for most of two weeks.
In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.”
She added that for some people, the death of a loved one can bring on major depression. “Losing a job or being a victim of a physical assault or a major disaster can lead to depression for some people. When grief and depression co-exist, the grief is more severe and lasts longer than grief without depression,” she said.
The medical expert said depression affects people of all ages, careers, races, and gender but is very unlikely before adolescence.
Adolescence comes with some changes that may be of much concern to the adolescent; likewise aging is a transition from independence to some form of dependence on others for normal daily function, this can leave one very depressed, she explained.
She said bodily changes accompanying these periods of life can trigger off sad feelings.
“The risk factor implicated in the causation of depression as I said before include: Negative life experiences, transformations in life for example, joblessness, loss of one’s job, bereavement, aging, childbirth, pubertal changes, wars, insurgency, adverse childhood experiences and sudden financial misfortune.
“Also, do you know that genetic factors can cause depression? Some people are biologically vulnerable to depression. Depression in parents may transcend into their offspring.
“We also have side effects of some drugs. Drugs that work on the central nervous system like alcohol, other substances of abuse leave the user feeling “low” after a period of high”. This cycle can tip the victim into depression,” said Dr Uma-Kalu.
“Depression is one of the most treatable mental disorders,” said Dr Uma-Kalu. “Between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms.”
The expert said before a diagnosis or treatment, a health professional will conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, including an interview and possibly a physical examination.
In some cases, a blood test might be done to make sure the depression is not due to a medical condition like a thyroid problem, she said.
“The evaluation is to identify specific symptoms, medical and family history, cultural factors and environmental factors to arrive at a diagnosis and plan a course of action,” she said.
She said psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is sometimes used alone for treatment of mild depression adding that for moderate to severe depression, psychotherapy is often used along with antidepressant medications.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in treating depression, she said. CBT is a form of therapy focused on the present and problem solving. It helps a person to recognise distorted thinking and then change behaviours and thinking.
Source: The Daily Trust News