What is depression?
Life is full of ups and downs. Each of us have, at least to some extent, felt sad, alone or grief during the more difficult times in life. Despite these times and many people calling it depression, we manage to continue functioning and eventually bounce back. So, then, what is depression really?
Depression is a serious medical illness. While the feelings above is an integral part of depression, it is not the same as depression. Depression (also known as unipolar depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common mental health disorder that more than 264 million people of all ages globally experiences.
Depression has to be treated with medication and the help of psychologists and psychiatrists.
The signs and symptoms of depression
Depression is defined by intense, prolonged feelings of despair and hopelessness; feeling continuously burdened by life. People with depression may experience depressive symptoms differently to one another.
Their experience of depression may include:
- A sense of emptiness, pessimism and indifference
- Prolonged sadness, perhaps with unexplained crying
- Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- Ongoing irritability or restlessness
- Obsessive thoughts
- Losing interest in daily activities and other activities you used to enjoy
- Significant changes in appetite or weight
- A loss of energy and persistent lethargy
- Changes in sleep quality and sleep patterns
- Self-loathing or reckless behaviour
- Concentration problems and indecisiveness
- Slowed thoughts
- Recurring thoughts of death and suicide
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Reduced physical movement.
Both moderate and severe depression can be serious health conditions and can make getting through the day feel overwhelming.
Depression must be diagnosed by a psychologist, doctor or psychiatrist. If you, or your friends or family, are concerned that you are experiencing some of the above signs or symptoms, we strongly encourage you to contact your healthcare provider to start you off on getting the right support and diagnosis.
How depression can be treated
We encourage you to speak to people who you trust and to be proactive in getting support. Contact your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist for support if you, or a family member or friend or colleague, are concerned that you may have depression. Here are a few ways that depression can be treated:
- Medicine (antidepressants)
Speak to your doctor to find out whether your form of depression warrants medication or referral to another healthcare professional. Antidepressants can have a significant effect in helping you to adaptively manage depression. They are intended to help ease the symptoms of depression and prevent them from recurring. Antidepressants can also help to give you greater energy and hope in navigating your daily functionsAs with any intervention, we encourage you to consider all the pros and cons. Speak to your doctor or psychiatrist to explore your options and understand the process.
- Psychological therapy
Therapists adopt a range of different approaches, such as:
o Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
o Psychodynamic psychotherapy
o Group therapeutic approaches
An important note: When selecting therapeutic route, one of the most important components is to feel aligned with the therapist. Speak to your therapist about how they engage with clients, and the style that they prefer. The professional relationship is perhaps one of the most important components of the intervention.
- Physical activity
Exercise and movement can help to ease certain symptoms of mild depression. Positive effects result from as little as 15 minutes a day of low-intensity exercise (like housework or taking a walk), and gentle stretching and moving
- Other activities that promote mental wellbeing
o Reaching out to support groups
o Mindfulness practices (for mild symptoms of depression) that promote being fully present in the moment and integrate that awareness into everyday life.
o Being proactive in connecting with others and allowing people you trust to help you.
o Using social media support networks.
o Journaling to clear the mind and better understand thoughts and feelings.
Visit the Vitality at Home page (https://www.discovery.co.za/vitality/vitality-at-home-exercise-nutrition-health) for more ideas on how to stay healthy and rewarded at home.
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Stay home. Stay healthy. Stay rewarded.