As the mental health month and also as a request from some readers, I was asked to write about one mental illness that is common and educate people a bit about it.

The reason why I try to desist from writing too much about specific mental health problems is to avoid people using this blog as a self-diagnosis tool and thereby shun seeing mental health professionals who can be able to make the proper diagnosis regarding their mental illnesses and get them proper help and treatment. However, as per the request, I will talk a bit about a mental illness that I think affects a lot of people which is depression.

What is depression?

Life is full of emotional ups and downs and everyone experiences the “blues” from time to time. But when the “down” times are long-lasting or interfere with an Individual’s ability to function at home or at work, that person may be suffering from depression. Clinical depression affects mood, mind, body and behaviour. Research has shown that 20% of the population will develop a depressive disorder during the course of their lives, and nearly two-thirds do not get the help they require.

A depressive disorder is a “whole-body” illness, involving your body, mood and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things.

Misconceptions about depression

A depressive disorder is not the same as a transient blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better.

What is the difference between stress and depression?

Stress is not a mental health illness or disorder. It is the feeling that you are under too much mental or emotional pressure. It tends to have an obvious trigger, like a relocation, divorce, or illness. Stress typically resolves as life events change. However, stress can lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression if it persists over long periods without relief.

Depression on the other hand is a mental health illness or disorder that requires a medical diagnosis. While stress is related to life events, depression can happen even if everything in life seems fine, it can just arrive from the blue with no explanation and can last for years. Depression is often based on old, repressed emotions that are making their way to the surface. As such, it rarely responds to logic. You can’t just ‘fix it’, or achieve or finish something that will make it go away. Telling a depressed person to “just try to be happy” is equivalent to telling someone with a broken leg to “just try to walk”

Whilst low stress can be okay and keep you motivated, low depression can still be debilitating for you. You can also be both stressed and depressed at the same time.

A depression diagnosis is typically given once a person experiences a depressed mood and a majority of the following symptoms for at least two weeks.

Symptoms of Depression include;

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex.
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and pessimism.
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and self-reproach.
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping.
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain.
  • Decreased energy, fatigue and feeling run down.
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs; may be associated but not a criterion for diagnosis.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts.
  • Feeling agitated, restless, and irritable.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions.
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
  • Deterioration of social relationships and withdrawal from people
  • Anger and rage

 Who becomes depressed?

Depression affects people of all sexes and all races, cultures and social classes. It is estimated that 20% of the population may suffer from major depression during the course of their lives. It is reported that depression is twice as common in women as it is in men.

Can one recover from depression?

In over 80% of the cases, treatment can alleviate the symptoms. Yet, because it often goes unrecognised, depression continues to cause unnecessary suffering. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.

What to do if one is depressed

Seek help, from a counsellor or psychotherapist.  Counselling or therapy can really be a lifesaver. It gives you a safe supportive environment to get to the bottom of how your life got out of control and left you feeling the way you do and helps you learn how to make choices that lead to a life that makes you feel good, not keeps you up at night.

My message to those who are depressed

If you have not gone through depression, you may be surprised by how hard it is for a depressed person to get out of bed and just face the world. However, if you have gone through it, you will understand. For those going through depression, my message is simple, some days will be harder than others but one thing that you should try and do every day is, get up, dress up and do your best. Also, get help for your self and never give up.

If you need to speak to a professional counsellor, don’t forget to get in touch with Psyche and Beyond.



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