According to the World Health Organisation, the number of people suffering from depression has increased by over 18% between the year 2005 and 2015. Depression is the largest cause of disability worldwide. On World Health Day 2017, we take a look at what really is depression and how to identify it. Is it really depression or just the blues? A quick glance at the statistics is sufficient to note the high prevalence of depression prevailing today. Moreover, such prevalence is increasing amongst almost all sections of the population, regardless of age, gender or occupation. Given such trends, it is important to understand the phenomenology of depression amongst women, who represent a major section of the population.
According to Dr Samir Parikh, Senior Psychiatrist at The Fortis Hospital in New Delhi, both men and women’s experience of and reactions to stress differ, both physically as well as mentally, as both the genders have a tendency to not only attempt to manage their stressors in different ways, but also differ in their perceptions of their abilities to do so. There is no more a clear-cut distinction of women being confined within the four walls of the home, nor are men restricting their responsibilities towards their job. It is common for women to be taking on multiple roles in their efforts to adapt to the changing societal expectations, and they would usually continue fulfilling their household and family responsibilities, at the same time taking on additional roles outside the home. Moreover, women who are stepping outside to work are likely to cherish their self-reliance, while also boosting their self-confidence.
Managing these multiple roles effectively could in itself also become a major stressor. This is because additional roles would translate into increasing number of demands, and higher expectations to be fulfilled. Such an overdose often makes women feel an inability to control the situations, and thereby might even lead to a state of exhaustion or burnout according to Dr Parish.
Warning Signs of Depression
Dr Sanjay Chugh, Senior Psychiatrist in New Delhi, explains us what really the warning signs of depression are? There are times when all of us feel sad and don't feel like doing much. However, this occasional feeling of sadness is a normal part of human life and must not be confused with clinical depression. It is only when a cluster of symptoms is experienced over a period of two weeks, for most parts of the day, causing impairment in one's personal, social and /or occupational functioning, that we would say that a person is struggling with depression.
Some of the key signs and symptoms of depression include -
1. Persistent low mood or a feeling of sadness through the day.
2. Reduced desire or interest in activities that a person would usually find pleasurable.
3. Feelings of Hopelessness
4. Feelings of Worthlessness
5. Changes in appetite - an increase or decrease without the intention of losing or gaining weight
6. Changes in sleep - sleeping more (Insomnia) or less (Hypersomnia) than usual
7. Speaking or moving slowly or feeling of restlessness
8. Reduced energy level, feeling of fatigue
9. Difficulty in thinking, concentration and / or indecisiveness
10. Thoughts of death or suicidal ideation or attempts
It is important that the assessment and diagnosis is formed by a thorough Mental Status Examination performed by an expert clinician. The sooner this happens, the quicker one can hope for a faster recovery to a normal healthy life.
Tips to Combat Depression
Dr Samir Parikh gives us easy practical tips in managing depression:
With Inputs from Dr Samir Parikh and Dr Sanjay Chugh.
- Give yourself frequent. It is important to keep aside some time for a recovery period along the way, to help replenish the energy being invested by you. This is not just a reward to give yourself for your hard work, but also a necessity for you to rejuvenate yourself.
- Me-time. No matter how much work may be pending, it is essential to give priority to yourself and your needs, so as to ensure you are able to stay healthy enough to remain capable of fulfilling your roles and responsibilities with justice.
- Social Support. You must take out time to spend with your friends and family, as socialisation is a very integral part of your emotional well-being.
- Healthy Lifestyle. There is a bidirectional relationship between mental and physical health. Therefore, you must include regular physical exercise, a balanced diet; avoid alcohol or nicotine, and regular hours of sleep to ensure that you can maintain the strength and stamina needed by you to meet the daily challenges.
- Clear boundaries. With the technological advancements, it is easy to blur the lines between work and home. However, it is essential to set clear boundaries, not bringing work home, and vice versa. Unless you learn to set limits clearly, stress would almost always end up overflowing into your work or personal space.
- Enjoy life. While it is easy to get trapped in the vicious cycle of work and home, with mountains of pending to-dos, it is more important to remember to enjoy yourself. Look for opportunities to laugh at, and humour is a great way to lighten the mood and relieve your stress levels.