Depression: The Monster Among Us

“I am depressed”. “Are you in depression?” Depression! Depression! We have been hearing this word a lot more recently. It’s a mental state which is very difficult to explain. The person undergoes a series of mood swings, feeling very low about themselves and finally they cannot find a purpose in living this life.

Now this is like a silent wildfire. It has evolved to be the new cancer. Depression is a silent killer. Most of the times, people take it as silly but it can cost their life. This word has often been misinterpreted. Even when they are simply sad or stressed out, people tend to call themselves as depressed. This has led to the loss of the seriousness of this condition. Clinical depression has wider aspects which at chronic levels are very dangerous.

What is depression?

A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. 20% of people with major depressive disorder develop psychotic symptoms. 10-15% of women develop postpartum depression. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men.

A recent research has shown that high altitude affects depression and the effectiveness of antidepressants. It is harder for your body to create serotonin-a neurotransmitter that is believed to regulate moods and behaviors, if you are living at high altitudes. This is because you are exposed to lower levels of oxygen.

Types of depression.

If the prevailing feature is a depressed mood, it is called unipolar depression. However, if it is characterized by unusual mood swings, it is referred to as bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings which are more extreme states and are not normal ups and downs that people have. Some times, they are highly energetic and happy; a sort of ‘up’ state called maniac episode. Sometimes they are sad and inactive; a sort of ‘down’ state called a depressive episode. When depression lasts two years or more, it is called persistent depressive disorder.

There is another major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern called as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Women who have just given birth to a newborn child experience postpartum depression  which is severe.

Is “Having It All” a vaccination for depression?

The recent tragic suicides of the famous fashion designer and businesswoman, Kate Spade and the celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain have left us devastated. What astonishes us is the fact that these people had everything they dreamed of, in their life. Kate had her dream company, a loving husband and she was blessed with a daughter. Anthony was a chef-turned-journalist-turned troubadour of the road. Both of them were happy from our perspectives. They had everything to make them the happiest people in this world. Then why did they kill themselves? They were the victims of depression. It’s a severe mental illness. You sunk into a feeling of despair and hopelessness. You forget about your love for your loved ones or you cannot feel their love for you.

PC: YourDOST

When I watched Deepika Padukone’s interview on NDTV, I was shocked to know that she started experiencing depression during the peak of her career. She said, ‘I woke up one morning and I felt empty and directionless. I used to cry a lot. Sometimes I’m normal and other times, I’m very emotional.” You can watch her interview by clicking here.

All of us are suffering from this condition on various levels. Now you might be thinking that’s nonsense. Whether you are working or studying, whatever might be the case, you experience a great deal of stress every day. One of my relative’s child who is in kindergarten used to go to pass the urine around 20 times a day and that got them worried. So when they sought for medical help ,the doctors said that she has stress. Can you imagine this horrible situation? Even small kids in the kindergarten are experiencing stress.

Both Kate and Anthony were geniuses. Maybe that’s a curse. I have heard many people say that creative minds often become victims of depression. I think it’s somewhat true. I had a friend whom I might have to call as extraordinary. He was a gifted child with a lot of talents. He wrote poems and stories which were massive for his age and he could draw these amazing paintings. He had awesome memory and was excellent in his studies. He used to create prototypes of his inventions and had huge ideas for innovations. But then all of a sudden, he lost interest in his studies and everything and started getting low grades. That’s when his family started noticing it. He never drew or wrote. He used to tell me how he enjoyed the idea of suicide. He considered suicide to be his only solution. He lost confidence in himself and used to be like a mad person. His family’s reaction at first wasn’t’ a favorable one. They used to scold him for his behavior. Then they started realizing and accepting the fact that he was suffering from depression. After a series of counselling and psychotherapies, luckily they were able to bring him back to his normal life.

What triggers depression?

The exact reason behind the cause of depression is unknown but it is a complex combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psycho-social factors. In about 40% of the depression cases, it can be linked to genetics. Just like diabetes and other hereditary disorders, it has been observed to run in families. The remaining 60% are attributed to the other factors. Some of the symptoms are feelings of hopelessness and guilt, impaired ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or attempt at suicide, anxiety etc.

A barefoot person holding rope under a spotlight

Even though it is a mental condition it also has physiological effects on our body such as, sudden weight gain/loss, poor hygiene, appetite changes, excessive sleep (hypersomnia) or no sleep (insomnia).When there are maniac episodes or depressive episodes or mixed episodes, it can cause symptoms that last for days, weeks or more.

Bullying can have serious consequences in children leading to anxiety and clinical depression. This is because bullying causes stress to a child’s life and severity depends on the individual and the situation. It can affect both the physical and  mental health of a person.

What can we do ?

If a person is over-excited or gloomy and sad, do not isolate or avoid them. Talk to them. always be alert because the people around you are not what you think they are. Even when they smile at you, they might be sad inside. Those people are very prone to depression because it’s difficult to identify their condition. If somebody has a tendency to harm themselves or suicidal attempts, seek medical help as soon as possible. A great support system from family and friends can be of great help.

Two young men leaning against a wooden railing in a forest

Depression is a treatable mental illness. Now there is a social stigma surrounding the treatment of this condition. People are very reluctant to consult a doctor even when they realize this illness. Because this is assumed to shatter your public and private image, what will others think about you and all those fears overpower you. Kate Spade was afraid of loosing her “happy-go-lucky” image. She always backed out prior to a consultation. This is everybody’s situation. Moreover you struggle within yourself to accept the fact that you are suffering from depression. More often, neither the person nor his family and friends fail to identify this condition. Their strange behavior isolates them from everyone around them. If you feel that something’s wrong with you, don’t ever hesitate to consult a doctor. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

There are a lot of organizations that help you tackle depression.

Here are some suggestions that you can follow to improve your self-satisfaction and well-being:

  • Follow your passion
  • Build and maintain meaningful relationships
  • Elevate your spirituality
  • Finally, take good care of your health

Depression is like a volcano. Without our knowledge it might be fuming within us and one day it explodes. Boom! So this volcano is there inside all of us. We need to be cautious about our own mental wellness as well as about the others. We are stronger than depression.