Depression is a mood disorder that creates feelings of sadness, emptiness, and irritability. The term ‘depression’ comes from the Latin word ‘deprimere’, meaning ‘to press down’.1,2
Depression can result in one feeling lonely and pushed down. It negatively affects how the person feels, thinks, and acts. With that, reduced self-expression can lead to emotional and psychological challenges.
The National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 revealed that 15% of Indian adults need active intervention for one or more mental health issues, and that one in 20 Indians suffers from depression.
What are the types of depression?
There are various types of depression. Some of them are:
- Major depression: Also known as major ‘depressive disorder’, ‘classic depression’, and ‘unipolar depression’. People with this type of depression experience symptoms every day, or almost every day. This is the most severe form of depression.
- Persistent depression: Also known as ‘dysthymia’ and ‘chronic depression’. This type of depression lasts for two or more years, and while it might not feel as intense as major depression, it is still very much a form of it. The severity of symptoms can become less intense at times.
- Manic depression: Also known as ‘bipolar disorder’. The person suffering from this experiences periods of ‘mania’ or ‘hypomania’, wherein they feel extremely happy or euphoric, alternating with periods of depression or extreme sadness.
- Seasonal depression: Also known as ‘seasonal affective disorder’ and ‘major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern’. This is related to certain seasons, mostly winter. Symptoms often begin in the autumn.
What are the causes of depression?
There are a number of reasons that can cause someone’s depression. Remember, it is different for everyone, and there is no single cause for it. Some factors that can contribute to depression are:
- Abuse: Current or past physical, emotional, or sexual abuse increases the vulnerability to clinical depression.
- Medications: Drugs such as Isotretinoin (which treats severe acne) and Corticosteroids (which lowers inflammation in the body), among others, are known to increase risks of depression.
- Situations or events: Situations like the loss of a loved one, disputes with friends or family, being cast out from your family or friend group, or even seemingly positive events like getting a job or moving houses can result in, or increase chances of depression.
- Illnesses: Depression can co-exist with major illnesses, or may be triggered by another medical condition.
- Substance abuse: When it comes to depression, substance abuse is both a cause and effect of it. While drugs and alcohol temporarily make you feel better, they inevitably will aggravate or cause depression.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Common symptoms of depression include persistent sadness, feeling helpless and worthless, short-tempered, and a lack of interest in doing activities that they once enjoyed. Not wanting to participate in simple daily chores, and social withdrawal are also symptoms.
There may be disturbances in sleep, energy levels, appetite, concentration, and behavior. Substance abuse can take place in the form of drug and alcohol abuse.
Depending on its severity, people may develop suicidal tendencies or start being obsessed with the idea of death.
To make it simpler, here’s a list of the symptoms a depressed person can face:
- Low moods
- Disinterest in daily activities
- Sleeping more or less
- Weight gain or loss
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Feeling worthless
- Increased or decreased emotional sensitivity
- Disturbance in concentration
- Disturbance in focus
- Excessive guilt for no apparent reason
- Mood swings
- Thoughts of suicide
While depression can be easy to spot in a person, it requires medical diagnosis and professional help.
How do we treat depression?
The sooner we identify the signs of depression and get it diagnosed, the better. By doing so early on, it gives us more time to address the illness. Psychotherapeutic interventions by qualified psychiatrists help tremendously. The right kind of therapy and medications are also vital as some depression medications have proven to be counterproductive.
What can you do to help?
If a loved one is at risk, or is already suffering from depression, here’s what you can do to help them:
- Listen: Hear them out. Do not assume. Ask questions if you are not sure or if you want to know more. Let them know that you are here for them.
- Assist: If they need help with day-to-day tasks, chores, or jobs, offer a helping hand.
- Be patient: Understand that depression cannot be healed overnight. It can take months or even years to recover from such an illness. Be patient and do not force their recovery.
- Understand: Research about what exactly they are going through. The more familiar you are, the better you can help them.
- Empathize: Depression takes different forms. It is not standardized. Being empathetic is the first step toward helping them.
For people who feel that their loved ones may be depressed or suicidal, look for the signs and be with them as they seek help. Below are a few suicide prevention helplines in India that provide professional support:
- AASRA, Mumbai: +91-9820466726
- SAHAI, Bengaluru: 080 25497777
- Sumaitri, Delhi: 011-23389090
- Lifeline Foundation, Kolkata: 033 24637401/7432
- Saath, Ahmedabad: +91 79 26305544/0222
- 1.Bohra N, Srivastava S, Bhatia M. Depression in women in Indian context. Indian J Psychiatry. 2015;57(Suppl 2):S239-45. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.161485
- 2.Kanter J, Busch A, Weeks C, Landes S. The nature of clinical depression: symptoms, syndromes, and behavior analysis. Behav Anal. 2008;31(1):1-21. doi:10.1007/BF03392158