All human beings experience mood swings; sometimes we are happy or euphoric and sometimes we are sad or upset. These changes are a part of everyday life. Some people, however, experience moods that are so intense and lasting that it interferes with their ability to function efficiently in daily life activities. In extreme cases, it might even be life-threatening or might cause the individual to lose touch with reality. These situations represent mood disorders, disturbances in emotions that impair everyday activities, interpersonal relationships, and physical health.
One of the most common, yet misunderstood, Mood Disorders is Depression. Contrary to popular belief, every-time one feels sad after experiencing one of life’s disappointments like losing a loved one, going through a breakup, losing a job, doing badly on a test etc need not necessarily be categorized as Depression. This confusion often leads us to either neglect of a serious mental health condition (under-diagnosis of Depression) that requires treatment, or on the other end of the spectrum may result in an overreaction or overgeneralization of a normative emotional trait (over-diagnosis of Depression). Depression is more than sadness, it may negatively affect how one feels, thinks, or acts. The symptoms of Depression commonly last 2 months or more, and typically show a negative change in an individual’s level of functioning.
Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms of Depression may manifest as:
- Unusually intense sad mood
- Lack of pleasure in activities previously enjoyed such as hobbies, sex, etc
- Lack of motivation
- Persistent boredom
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and routine
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Physical symptoms like headache, stomach ache, digestive problems etc
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
- Decreased confidence and self-esteem
- Increased crying spells
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Causes of Depression
There are several possible causes of Depression. Depression may result from a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. Some of the common causes include family history of Depression or genetics, death or loss of a loved one, interpersonal conflicts, personality, stressful life events, early losses and trauma, changes in brain structure or functions, medical conditions, and substance/drug abuse or dependence. Adverse life events like unemployment or bereavement too may trigger the onset of Depression. Depression itself can lead to more stress and dysfunction, and worsen the affected person’s life circumstances. There are also interrelationships between Depression and physical health as poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions like cardiovascular diseases, hypertensions or more, while chronic physical conditions are a risk factor for developing poor mental health.
Depression In India
According to WHO, more than 264 million people worldwide are affected by Depression. In India, the National Mental Health Survey (2015-16) revealed that 1 in 20 Indians suffer from Depression. Despite the alarming prevalence estimates of Depression, there is still stigma associated on this topic of mental health, particularly so in India. One expects people to be aware and sensitive towards this issue in the 21st century but instead gets to listen to remarks like ‘it’s all in the head’, ‘just snap out of it’ or ‘it is a sign of weakness’. In our society, people rarely ever say “It is just Cancer, get over it,” but the same is not the case when someone is suffering from Depression. We tend to care for those with a physical illness in ways that we wouldn’t even bother to think of when interracting with a person with Depression. We do our bit in helping a person receiving treatment for a physical illness, and extend emotional and financial support too, but above all, we treat their illness with the respect, seriousness, and legitimacy that it rightly deserves. Contrastingly, when it comes to Depression, more often than not we are quick to view them as lazy, weak, lacking willpower or deduce that the person “chose to feel that way". Furthermore, people tend to give inappropriate, unhelpful, and unsolicited advice to those suffering from Depression given the lack of awareness of the same in India. It is really important to reduce stigma and really understand causes and treatment of Depression to ensure appropriate identification, and work towards providing support and care. It’s time we realise that it is NOT okay to take our own as well as others’ mental health for granted.
Depression is treatable. Medications and Psychotherapy or a combination of the two have been found to be effective in most cases of Depression treatment. In case of severe depression, however, one might need hospitalisation.
We, at PsychLine.in aim to provide effective therapy to help one understand the possible underlying reasons for Depression and learn new coping skills using a range of styles and techniques including grief counseling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal approach, existential therapy, integrated approach, psychodynamic approach, or other approaches depending on the severity of the challenge, personal preferences, and therapy goals. Our objective is to empower people to implement effective strategies, coping mechanisms, and problem-solving skills through insight gained during therapy, in the real world.
You are not alone, you are not crazy, you are not a label, reach out!
Clinical and Research Intern, PsychLine.in
Sahu, A., Gupta, P., & Chatterjee, B. (2014). Depression is more than just sadness: A case of excessive anger and its management in depression. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 36(1), 77-79.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.
Murthy, R. S. (2017). National mental health survey of India 2015–2016. Indian journal of psychiatry, 59(1), 21-26.