Depression is a very common condition, and affects about 5% of the population.
Depression affects the mood and brain function. It disrupts sleep, work, and relationships. There are various treatments available for depression, and sometimes more than one type of approach can be used at a time.
Depression brings feelings of misery, tearfulness, and sadness. There are many sensitive people in this world that suffer from bouts of depression from time to time. Of course there are many other symptoms, which may be present in varying degrees. These include:
* Feeling tired all the time.
* Loss of drive.
* A sense of uselessness and helplessness.
* Loss of appetite and weight.
* Weight gain (through “comfort eating”).
* Sleep disturbance.
* Loss of interest in sex.
* Memory problems.
* Irritability and aggression.
* Suicidal thoughts.
* Loss of self worth.
In depression, there is an imbalance of the chemicals that are responsible for normal functioning of the brain. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters. Events such as deaths, marital/relationship breakdown, unemployment, money worries, retirement, etc. can trigger depression. Changes in the body’s hormones, as after pregnancy, can also be a trigger. Of course, there are times when there is no obvious external cause too.
Depending on the symptoms, the doctor will call for some blood tests to make sure you do not have anemia, hormonal imbalance, or any other chemical disturbance in your body. There are as such no blood tests for depression, but it’s best to rule out the possibilities.
There are many ways to deal with depression. The “just pull yourself together” approach seldom works, and, in fact, when the sufferer cannot do this, he feels even worse. It takes a lot of mental turmoil to get things in the manner that they should be. Professional counseling can be helpful, as can psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, but they are time-consuming and quite costly as well. One of the treatments most readily available is antidepressant medication.
These may be looked upon as a chemical crutch, which will help you carry on with your daily life. Depression can otherwise make normal day-to-day decisions very difficult. You will still be able to work, although it must be discussed between you and your doctor, bearing in mind the nature of your occupation.
You will have to decide whether the antidepressant medication is right for you, based on your own experience, and the advice of your doctor. Antidepressants work by allowing your body to make better use of its own depleted brain chemicals (neurotransmitters). No drug is without side effects, but they are much less in the modern medications.
Antidepressants take a while before you start seeing their benefits. To begin with, you may notice side effects that usually lessen after a few days. You should eventually get the benefits of regular use of your medication. Your doctor will inform you about the possible adverse effects of the drug you are going to take.
In the normal way of things, most people do better after staying on their antidepressant medication for three to six months. In that time, if you stop taking the medication, you will usually go back to normal. But it’s better to reduce the dose slowly rather than stopping abruptly. It’s best if you discuss this with your doctor. After stopping the medication, if you either get new symptoms or revert to being depressed, you should pay him a visit again.
Choose from a range of relaxing techniques like meditation, yoga, self-hypnosis, etc. They all offer similar benefits, and if you can find a course or class where you can learn one of these, it might benefit your mental health. You could also do the following:
* Exercise regularly, as it is good for the mind and body.
* Eat a healthy diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
* Consider slowing down your pace of living. A short vacation might help.
* Avoid the things we tend to turn to under stress, like alcohol, smoking, and illicit drugs, as they will probably make things worse.
* Try to keep your mind active by reading a book, watching TV, rather than dwelling on your feelings, which will only make you feel worse.