In the current era, there is a tendency to “medicalize” the human condition (Summerfield, 2006). I.e. certain aspects of what was regarded as “normal” human behaviour and experiences a decade ago, have been “re-badged” as medical conditions (van Praag, 2000). Yet most people still don’t recognise the need to seek help, till it becomes too late.
Depression is a mental state characterised by ‘excessive’ sadness. It is a common word used every day. Most people use it when in the actual sense they mean, ‘i’m fed up because my relationship is not working out, or my boss is stressing me, etc.
We all have experienced sadness, the undesired emotion which accompanies undesired events, such as loss of a valued object or individual, or failure to achieve a desired goal, but most people recover quite quickly, and it’s not depression until it occurs as an exaggerated response to a minor event, or in the absence of a triggering/stimulating event, and once established the sad mood remains… a case of crying more than the bereaved, but the question is, what if you are the bereaved, how long should you cry???
Who gets depressed? :
“Females are more prone to depression with a ratio of 3:1,(maybe because females worry a lot). Approximately 5 million Nigerians have had a depressive episode at one point in their life, and about 3% of Nigerians are suffering from it. (if you know the total population in Nigeria, you’ll understand that 3% is a whole lot). Its onset is in the mid 20s to mid 40s.
How to recognise a depressed person:
Some people know when they are depressed, but some others do not. There are a set of symptoms that are associated with depression and aid in its diagnosis. They are as follows:
•sad mood, +/- weeping spells
•Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activity
•Poor attention and concentration, indecisiveness. E.g. difficulty in reading,
working, as simple tasks become difficult
•Change in appetite, most often a poor appetite and weight loss, sometimes the reverse happens with comfort eating and weight gain
•loss of confidence or self-esteem
•sleep disturbance (can be increased or decreased) compared with your usual sleep pattern
•feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness or inappropriate guilt
•Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or any suicidal behaviour. Not fear of death but more of a preoccupation with death or dying. Eg thoughts like, ‘i ‘ll rather not wake up tomorrow’, ‘life is not worth living’ etc
•agitation or slowing of movement
In our environment, some other somatic/body symptoms are included, such as
•tingling or prickly sensations
•heat in the head/body
The severity of depression depends on the number of symptoms present;
Mild: 2 major symptoms + 2 minor symptoms
Moderate: 2 major + 4 minor symptoms
Severe: 3 major + 5 minor symptoms. Psychotic symptoms (Hallucinations and delusions) can also be seen here. A delusion is a strong belief held on inaccurate grounds, even in the face of contrary proof, not in line with the person’s social, cultural, or educational background. E.g. a professor who stops eating at home, because he is convinced his wife wants to kill him, as she always smiles at him when he eats. Hallucination means hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling or tasting something that is not real.
A convenient diagnosis is made if
•the above symptoms are present most of the time on most days and have lasted at least 2 weeks
•the symptoms are not due to substance use, side effects of medication, or any other physical sickness/condition.
•stressful events such as relationship issues, childbirth in some women leads to post-puerperal depression
•pre-existing physical condition, eg HIV, cancer etc
•Mild – mostly resolves on its own. A positive environment, talking with friends can help come out of it. Psychotherapy and counselling can also help
•Moderate- psychotherapy and medications(anti depressants) if necessary.
•Severe- antidepressants with/without antipsychotics are used
Depression is common but many people don’t admit it, some feel there is a stigma attached to it or that they’ll be seen as weak, this should not be the case, if you have problems, try talking with someone, don’t bottle it up, it will help them understand and help you. Avoid taking rash decisions (eg quitting your job) while depressed. Some of them are often told to ‘snap out of it’, truth is they cannot and such comments are not helpful.
Understanding that your symptoms are due to depression and that it is common may help you accept that you are ill and need help.
If left untreated, could lead to relationship issues, employment issues, and even suicide, as majority of the suicides committed are by depressed people who went unnoticed.