What is Depression?

At some point in our lives each of us will most likely experience the death of someone dear to us, an important relationship breakdown, or other challenging life event that will cause grief, sadness, or distress. 

However clinical depression is different from normal grief or sadness. The symptoms of depression are varied:

  • generally a deep sense of hopelessness, a feeling of low self-worth and a sense of being disappointed by one's self and/or others, poor concentration, fatigue, and loss of energy are present and it becomes impossible to feel a mood uplift even when something positive happens. 
  • rumination on negative or sad thoughts and feelings is quite common. One sees the world and one's own life through a negative lens which colors everything. 
  • one's mood may be sad, irritable, or, most characteristically, "empty", "flat," or ‘dead inside'. 
  • sleeping and eating habits often become affected: some people suffer from insomnia, others sleep much more than usual. Likewise, some people become compulsive eaters, while others lose a lot of weight not being able to eat almost anything. 

Not everyone experiences all these symptoms. The symptoms are usually present most of the day, almost every day, for two weeks or longer in major depressive episodes.

The condition is often aggravated by the fact that in addition to the unbearable psychological pain, depression victims often feel alone and isolated in their suffering, unable to explain to the people around them why they can't just "shake it off" and "cheer up."  They often feel their ordeal is not being taken seriously.

The origins of depression are not always understood. Stressful life events are common triggers of depression, yet not everyone who experiences them becomes depressed.  Whether an individual becomes depressed is determined by a combination of factors, such as the duration and intensity of stressful events, their meaning for the person,  genetic predisposition, biological factors, coping skills, and access to social support.

About 15% of us will experience depression at some point in our lives. Clinical depression is rapidly turning into a modern epidemic. It is the fourth most common cause of worldwide disability, and it is predicted to move to second place by the year 2020. Yet so far most cases of depression remain undiagnosed and untreated, while its influence on the life of those suffering from it are tremendous.  

Undiagnosed, and therefore untreated, depression can be at the root of broken relationships and families falling apart, loss of employment, substance abuse and addictions, compulsive behaviors and self-harm. The suffering is not limited to the depressed person, but affects spouses, children,  friends, and relatives, all of whom may experience severe emotional, financial, and even physical suffering trying to cope with depression in someone close to them. Counselling/ therapy can often be helpful for those who are suffering from the depression of someone close to them. 

Nowadays there is a wide range of treatment for depression available, which brings relief to 95% of all  patients seeking help. The problem today is not so much in the treatment itself, but rather getting people into treatment. The reasons for not seeking help are varied: some are determined by the symptoms of the disorder, such as hopelessness and lack of motivation, excessive guilt, and feelings of worthlessness. Other factors include social stigma, financial problems, and a lack of knowledge about this common diagnosis. 

The treatment in most cases involves either psychotherapy alone or a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication, with the length of treatment depending on the severity of the symptoms.Yet the prognosis is generally optimistic: most patients eventually restore full functioning, and are able to cope better if depression reoccurs. 

Perinatal and Postpartum Depression

Depression that occurs during pregnancy or within one year after delivery is called perinatal depression. Researchers believe that depression is one of the most common complications during and after pregnancy. Unfortunately often perinatal depression is not recognized or treated, simply because normal pregnancy changes may cause similar symptoms. You may be tired, have problems sleeping, experience stronger emotional reactions, changes in body weight often occur during and after pregnancy. However these symptoms may also be signs of depression.

After pregnancy sudden hormonal changes in a woman's body may trigger depression. Postpartum depression may happen anytime within a year after the baby is born. The main difference between postpartum depression and the common "baby blues" is that postpartum depression seriously affects a woman’s well-being and prevents her from normal functioning for a long period of time. Postpartum depression needs to be assessed and treated. Combinations of counselling, social support, and medicines are known to help women successfully overcome postpartum depression.