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Understanding depression

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/4/2018 5:18:41 AM IST

 “Depressed people cannot lead a revolution because depressed people can barely manage to get out of bed and put on their shoes and socks” (Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression).

She knew she had to get out of bed. There was so much pending work and she couldn’t afford to take another leave from her job. She managed to sit up, with an almost Herculean effort. She looked around the room, a clear reflection of her state of mind. Clothes everywhere, muddy shoeprints on the floor. This wasn’t her. She felt so low, as if she was sitting deep down in a dark pit that was empty of everything but her presence. A pit that was dark and no light would ever find its place. Looking back, she wasn’t sure how she got here. Was it her career? She never wanted this, her parents did. Was it the break up? It was definitely unexpected. Was it her friends moving away? They were doing what they wanted in life and she felt like they had abandoned her. She didn’t know because her mind, in that given moment was a blank slate and her mind in a state of numbness. She felt exhausted, her bones so heavy. Drawing the blanket towards her, she lay back down and curled herself into a ball. As if she was to trying to shield herself from all the pain. 

Depression is one of the most frequently diagnosed mental illness and yet a fairly misunderstood one. It isn’t merely sadness; it isn’t a tendency to worry and it definitely isn’t something made up. For the person battling depression, it is a nightmare that refuses to dissipate. It is a condition which affects several domains of an individual’s life such as his/her mood, cognition, and overall personality. 

So what is depression? Depression is a mental condition characterized by core symptoms such as sadness of mood, tiredness and loss of interest in activities that the person previously enjoyed. In other words, the person would experience low mood/feeling down most of the time. The individual would also feel tired very easily, leading to difficulty in carrying out routine activities such as waking up, brushing, going for work and so on. Activities/hobbies that the person previously enjoyed such as reading, watching tv, going out with friends would not interest the person anymore. Other associated signs usually seen include difficulty concentrating, changes in patterns of sleep and appetite, feeling hopeless/helpless/worthless, loss of self esteem and suicidal ideas/attempts. Diagnosis is usually made when the symptoms persist for more than duration of two weeks. 

There has been a lot of misconception regarding what causes depression, with people often blaming the person. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many theories and models have been proposed to explain what leads a person to get stuck in a vicious cycle of self blame and self doubt. Prominent theories include that of genetic vulnerability, loss of loved one especially during childhood, learned helplessness and so on. The causes may be varied but the overall consequence is usually lowered quality of life. In line with the causation, depression is usually treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy, though standalone therapy is also employed. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and a huge chunk of this population do not receive treatment. This is because of barriers such as lack of resources as also the stigma surrounding mental illness in general. Family members are more willing to accept supernatural explanations and seek treatment from faith healers. To overcome this, awareness is of utmost significance. Awareness that depression is an illness. Awareness that it requires treatment. Awareness that it can happen to anyone. Awareness that the person did not choose to be this way. Awareness that as a society, we are responsible for it.

It happens more often than we like to acknowledge that in the rush of everyday life, we neglect people around us. We notice that something is different but don’t take the time to find out what it is. We expect that someone else will take care of it, and everyone expects the same. 

Individuals with depression can live life like anyone else. For this, intervention is required, preferably early on. With this regard, family members and friends have a huge role to play. As a society, we have a huge part to play in this and we need to work proactively towards this.   

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