It’s not a simple case of the blues. If your sadness is interfering with your everyday activities, it’s more serious that you think.
What is depression?
Here are some definitions according to the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one thinks about oneself, and the way one think about things. Being a mood disorder, it is a chronic condition, which runs from three (3) to six (6) weeks. If left untreated, it usually affects a person’s ability to function.
Though there are many types of depression, the most common are as follows:
A major depression, also called unipolar depression, is a combination of symptoms that interfere with one’s ability to eat, sleep, and enjoy activities. It can occur several times in a lifetime. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified unipolar depression as the number two (2) health problem today, predicting that, by 2020, the number one cause of death worldwide will be suicide.
Dysthymia is a long-term kind of depression that, although its symptoms do not disable a person, it keeps one from functioning well or feeling good. People with dysthymia may also suffer from bouts of major depression throughout their lifetimes.
A bipolar disorder, also known as a manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. A person who experiences dramatic mood swings, from overly “high” and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, then back again, often with normal moods in between may be suffering from bipolar disorder. These periods of highs and lows are called mania and depression.
The Blues vs. Depression
Depression is very different from sadness. People who are depressed are not able to just “pull themselves together” unlike people who are well. A person is depress if the feeling of sadness lasts for about two (2) weeks. There is also a decrease in interest in everyday activities. You don’t feel excited anymore about going about your normal activities. There is a feeling of self-pity, a feeling of worthlessness.
Depression cannot be identified physiologically; there is no blood test or brain scan that can diagnose it. It is recognized by its symptoms, the course of the illness, and family history. If the depression is brought about by a bipolar disorder, it may even appear to be a problem other than a mental illness, like alcohol or drug abuse, poor school or work performance, or strained interpersonal relationships.
Causes Of Mood Disorders
Though the exact causes of mood disorders are unknown, several factors have been associated with them, like a genetic predisposition (e.g. a person with a first-degree relative, who has been diagnosed as depressed), brain neurotransmitter dysregulation, childhood trauma, medical conditions, and social stressors like a loss of a family member, job loss or change, or relationship problems.
It is best to recognize it right away. Depression manifests itself physically through lack of sleep or the loss of appetite. It can also be seen in the total decreases in function of the individual. The individual also feels a strong sense of guilt or wanting to commit suicide, which is a common feeling.
According to the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the following are symptoms of those suffering from depression:
- Persistent sad or anxious mood
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in interests, like hobbies and activities previously enjoyed
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty remembering, making decisions, concentrating
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Loss of appetite / weight loss or overeating / weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, attempts at suicide
- Restlessness or irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, like headaches, digestive disorders, or chronic pain
Cases On The Rise
As in other parts of the world, cases of depression in the Philippines are increasing. More significantly, people suffering from mood disorders are getting younger. Children without parental models until the age of ten (10)are reported to have higher incidences of depression, especially in the urban areas. We see this when a parent leaves the country to work abroad and is separated from his family for long periods of time. Aside from the children, the overseas worker himself, who is separated from his spouse and children, is also affected.
Women are more prone to depression becuase of the hormonal changes in their bodies brought about by occurrences like childbirth. But, unlike men, it is the women who seek medical help more than the men. Filipinos, then men especially, don’t usually seek treatment for depression because they think it’s nakakahiya or they might be branded as sira ulo. Seeking psychological treatment is stigmatized here unlike in other countries.
It is more difficult for Filipino men because they feel they cannot open up. They cannot cry because they will be branded gay. When they do open up, their friends would say, “Wala naman yan. Madadaan yan sa inuman.” In effect, the condition is ignored when it should be a cause for alarm.
According to the NIMH, the signs and symptoms that accompany suicidal feelings include: talking about wanting to die; feeling hopeless that nothing will ever change or get better; feeling helpless that nothing one does makes any difference; feeling like a burden to family or friends; abusing alcohol or drugs; writing a suicide note; and putting oneself in harm’s way, or in situations where one might be killed.
If you are feeling suicidal, or know someone who is, call a doctor, and get immediate help. Make sure you or the suicidal person are not left alone. Suicidal feelings and actions are symptoms of an illness that can be treated. With proper treatment, these feelings can be overcome.
Depression is Treatable
If you think somebody you know is depressed, let her see a specialist right away because it is treatable. You can go back to your normal functions; you can work again. What’s more, people suffering from mood disorders have nothing to be ashamed of it. It is neither a defect nor a sign of weakness. It is medical condition. In treatment, there are strategies to help the patient. There are medications that help lessen the depressive feeling. Aside from that, there is also psychotherapy. Psychotherapies or “talk therapies” help patients gain insight into or resolve their problems. Working closely with a doctor and communicating openly about treatment concerns and options can make a difference in the effectiveness of treatment and the quality of one’s life.