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Depression (also called major depressive disorder) was derived from the Latin word ‘deprimere’ meaning ‘press down’

According to World Health Organization, ‘depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.’

From this definition, it is evident that depression is more than a mere low mood as it affects physical, mental and social health.

However the good news is that it is treatable.

Who can have depression?

Unfortunately, depression does not discriminate. It cuts across all ages, socioeconomic class and educational background 😢😢

How common is depression?

It is a common illness worldwide and number of people with depression is gradually increasing. More than 300 million people are affected by depression.

Shockingly, more women are affected with depression more than men!

According to World Bank, it is estimated that 22% of Nigerians suffer from chronic depression (that is a whopping 39.6 million people using our current population of 180million 😨😨). The reason for this will be iterated later.

Are there factors that increase the possibilities of having depression?

The answer is YES.

It is worthy to note that depression usually results from complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors. Some of these are highlighted below:

  • Biochemistry: differences in certain chemicals in the brain can contribute to depression
  • Genetics: depression can run in families
  • Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
  • Environmental factors: unemployment, poverty, bereavement, violence, neglect, abuse, stress, certain medical illnesses, alcohol and drug abuse, relationship break up, social isolation (this has gradually increased), loneliness(very common in old people), social comparism (eg social media effect).

Are there factors that increase the possibilities of having depression?

The answer is YES.

It is worthy to note that depression usually results from complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors. Some of these are highlighted below:

  • Biochemistry: differences in certain chemicals in the brain can contribute to depression
  • Genetics: depression can run in families
  • Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
  • Environmental factors: unemployment, poverty, bereavement, violence, neglect, abuse, stress, certain medical illnesses, alcohol and drug abuse, relationship break up, social isolation (this has gradually increased), loneliness(very common in old people), social comparism (eg social media effect).

Perhaps the increased rate of depression in Nigeria could be attributed to violence (over the years in different parts of the country), poverty (Nearly 50% of Nigerians live below the poverty line), heightened unemployment and increased substance abuse…..🤔🤔🤔

Depressive disorder can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the number and severity of symptoms. An individual with a mild depressive episode will have some difficulty in continuing with ordinary work and social activities, but will probably not cease to function completely. During a severe depressive episode, it is very unlikely that the sufferer will be able to continue with social, work, or domestic activities, except to a very limited extent.

What are the types of depression?

  • Recurrent depressive disorder: Here there is repeated depressive episodes
  • Bipolar affective disorder: this form is characterized by periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated mood.
  • Perinatal depression: This is the form experienced by many women after giving birth.
  • Seasonal affective disorder/seasonal depression: also called winter disorder. ‘The symptoms usually occur during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and usually improve with the arrival of spring.’
  • Persistent depressive disorder: This is a depressive mood that lasts for at least TWO YEARS.

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue, reduced concentration, indecisiveness, restlessness, sleeping more or less, loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
  • Increased purposeless activities, slow movement and speech, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, anxiety, change in appetite.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness, thoughts of self-harm.

What can depression lead to?

  • ‘Alcohol or substance misuse, panic disorder or social phobia, excess weight or obesity, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes, family conflicts, relationship difficulties, and work or school problems, premature death from other medical conditions, pain and physical illness, self-mutilation, such as cutting, social isolation’
  • Depression can result in suicide.

According to WHO, ‘Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.’ Abysmally, Nigeria is rated 10th in Africa in terms of suicide rate and 30th most suicide prone out of 183 Nations in the World. This in part could be due to stigma associated with mental disorder in our society since a lot of people with depression fail to speak out.

Before a diagnosis of depression can be established or treatment instituted, a health professional will have to conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, including an interview and possibly a physical examination. ‘The evaluation is to identify specific symptoms, medical and family history, cultural factors and environmental factors to arrive at a diagnosis and plan a course of action.’

There are criteria for diagnosis the various types of depression. This however is beyond the scope of this discussion.

How is depression treated?

Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Sadly, fewer than 10% receive such treatments.

The broad range of treatments for depression is:

  • Psychotherapy: ‘Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is sometimes used alone for treatment of mild depression; for moderate to severe depression, psychotherapy is often used in along with antidepressant medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in treating depression. CBT is a form of therapy focused on the present and problem solving. CBT helps a person to recognize distorted thinking and then change behaviors and thinking. Depending on the severity of the depression, treatment can take a few weeks or much longer.’
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy: Psychotherapy can include others.’ For example, family or couples therapy can help address issues within these close relationships. Group therapy involves people with similar illnesses.’
  • Medications (antidepressant medication)
  • Electroconvulsive therapy: This is used for patients with severe major depression that has not responded well to other treatments. ‘It involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia.’

Are there preventive measures for depression?

Yes ….

  • Self-help and Coping: regular exercise (this can help create positive feeling and improve mood), getting enough sleep on regular basis, healthy eating habit, avoid alcohol (which is a depressant), avoid self-blame, focus on having a positive attitude, think of what you’re grateful for every day, volunteer (Volunteering cultivates a positive attitude, keeps you busy and helps better the world), rebuild lost relationship, work on your passions to find an outlet and to cultivate your self-esteem.

Lastly

Talking with people you trust (friends, colleagues, family doctor or psychiatrist) can be a first step towards recovery from depression.

And if you notice signs of depression in people close to you, do not hesitate to help them seek help.

Remember depression is a real illness and with proper diagnosis majority of people with depression will overcome it!

GET HELP!!!

 

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