Depression, and its many subtypes, affect an individual with a range of symptoms. Most people will persistently feel stressed, have sleep disturbances, irritability, anxiousness, sadness, difficulty doing daily tasks, and loss of interest (especially in tasks that a person used to love). In more severe cases, frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, and attempts. This causes the individual to experience noticeable difficulties with day-to-day activities, such as work, school, and social activities.
Studies have shown the Middle East and North Africa regions have depression rates between 13 - 18% among the general population, with twice the amount occurring in females.
It can occur once in a lifetime, or you could experience multiple episodes. The DSM-V classes episodes with at least 2 weeks in duration, although they could last significantly longer. This means that depression is more than just your typical low sad mood. While feeling sad is an extremely normal temporary reaction to life events, what differs is the persistence of the symptoms for a long period of time
Some of the common types of depression are:
Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): Continuous and long-term form of depression of varying intensity, however, is typically reported as mild.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Depression that is related to changes in season, typically beginning and continuing during the winter season
Major Depression: Symptoms of depression that are constant, experienced on most days, for a minimum of two weeks
Postpartum (Perinatal) Depression: Depression that begins during pregnancy and/or after the baby is born
Many disorders come with a biological risk that increases the likelihood of someone having a mental disorder. That risk can be amplified or reduced depending on one’s experiences and their own subjective reactions to any situation. There are many possible experiences that can increase one’s chances of depression. It can happen for many different reasons and appear differently from one person to another.
Some causes that may increase the possibility of depression include:
Major life events might include both good and bad life events such as graduating, having a baby, divorce, losing a job, etc. These events might cause an individual to start showing symptoms of depression.
Conflict with someone, such as with a close family member, friends, or workplace
Abuse comes in many forms, and being a part of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can make someone more vulnerable to depression either then or later on in life
Side effects to other medications may include depression or increase the likelihood of someone developing it
Family history of depression or other mental health disorders. This also includes a family history of other physical disorders or diseases that can make an individual more vulnerable to depression. This is especially true for individuals with serious or chronic illnesses.
Substance abuse, drugs, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors can cause many people to go through depression regardless of what kind of abuse.
Persistent low mood: one of the main symptoms of depression describes having a low mood for at least two weeks, and depending on the type, can remain for years with varying severity, especially when left untreated
Loss of enjoyment of favorite activities: When depressed, people tend to lack the desire and motivation to pursue activities they usually find fun and appealing. That lack of motivation can also mean they are unwilling to do anything at all. This is a common symptom and sign of depression and appears in social situations such as relationships and causes one to withdraw from another person such as a marriage or friendship.
Appetite and Weight Changes: It is common for an individual to over-eat, or to have weak appetites leading them to lose or gain weight. This can put a person at risk of obesity, or severe weight with the health issues that come along with that
Feeling of hopelessness: Feeling hopeless, or helpless is a common symptom as well, one may feel entrenched and overwhelmed by depression that they may never be able to get out of it or be able to treat it
Feelings of worthlessness/guilt: A person may feel useless, unimportant, or believe that have nothing of value to offer to their community. A belief that they are inherently bad, which may cause them to not put any effort into their work/school life, social relationships, and or attempt to take their career further
Thoughts of death/suicide: Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, or a plan to commit suicide
The first step to diagnosing any mental health condition is to exclude any possible physical conditions.
A diagnosis requires a qualified professional to examine the individual
Only trained healthcare providers (such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or pediatrician) can diagnose and/or treat any mental health condition.
There is no direct test for depression, therefore, trained mental health professionals look for symptoms of depression that occur for most of the day, and have occurred for more than two weeks. These symptoms do not improve with time, and they tend to affect an individual in many aspects of their lives, such as work, interests, relationships, and overall well-being. Having suicidal thoughts, or engaging in self-harm are also symptoms of depression.
Therefore, healthcare providers must take a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s life to determine a diagnosis. It is also the duty of the mental health professional to diagnose any other mental health conditions that are possibly present.
Psychotherapy: There are many different approaches under psychotherapy that can help someone experiencing depression. Different approaches are successful with different individuals therefore, the process of finding the right approach and therapist may be difficult at first. It can also lead to some people going for the wrong therapist or technique, and thereby leaving therapy altogether. However, people must keep in mind that therapy is not a “one size fits all” process, and sometimes a person may need to try different approaches in order to determine the best one for themselves using the help of a trained mental health professional. Some types of therapy include:
Behavior Therapy: The goal is to eliminate unwanted behaviors, and strengthen positive behaviors. This would be usually done in environments that are familiar to the individual, such as at home, school, workplace, and others.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): The goal of CBT treatment is to eliminate negative, and irrational patterns of thinking for other symptoms that come due to living with the condition. Some individuals may have unhealthy internal dialogues, and CBT helps to eliminate those thought patterns.
Medication: There are different classes of medications that work for depression. A person should never take any kind of medication unless under the supervision of a trained mental health service provider. They should also ensure that they take it exactly according to the instructions and dosage gave to them. Medications for depression works best in combination with appropriate and individualized therapy, there are several kinds of medications that work for depression such as:
Antidepressants: a type of medication that helps relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, as well as other conditions. The goal is to correct any chemical imbalances in the brain that are responsible for mood and mood regulation. Different classes of medications work differently in the brain, some work better than others depending on the individual, their age, their reaction to the medication, and what medications are available to them. As with all kinds of medications, side effects exist for all types of antidepressants and must be discussed with their mental health care provider in order to mitigate these side effects. Antidepressants also carry the risk of abuse and addiction if they are mishandled.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): ECT is a type of treatment that is used for individuals with treatment-resistant Depression or Bipolar Disorder. This means that an individual has tried different treatment methods for some time and has not responded to any of them.
The ECT machine is hooked to a patient's head, and brief electrical volts are applied to the person’s head, while under general anesthesia. This can look very scary and terrifying for an observer, the procedure is uncomfortable but not painful. These electric shocks are given multiple times a week, over the course of a few weeks.
This is only given to people who do not have other physical conditions that may put them at risk of receiving ECT.
Light Therapy: Some people benefit from a light therapy box, which mimics outdoor light. Research has shown that this type of light causes certain changes in the brain that can lift mood and makes one feel happier. This is used for around 20-60 minutes a day and as soon as one wakes up from sleep.
Healthy diet and lifestyle: Research suggests that developing a consistently healthy diet, adequate sleep, and exercise plan can play a big factor in mitigating symptoms and improving the quality of life
Support Groups: A group of people with common mental health conditions who can provide comfort, and advice, knowing that they share similar experiences. These groups can be led with and without a mental health professional. Research has shown that the group can provide a common purpose for its members which lead to many benefits such as:
Leaving the isolation of suffering from a mental health condition
Being able to talk openly and honestly
Gaining control over their emotions
Helping others with their experiences therefore also helping themselves
Self Help Techniques: There are plenty of self-help techniques available for any individual to try that may help them deal with their symptoms. Examples include volunteering, positive self-talk, breathing exercises, and meditation
If you are feeling depressed, you can use our platform to find someone to speak with, however, consider making an appointment to see a doctor or mental health professional. Consider speaking to a close friend, loved ones, and spiritual leader in your faith community.
Postpartum Support International - https://www.postpartum.net/ - An international support organization for mothers with postpartum depression, with information, online international free support groups 5 days a week, and a phone hotline