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DEPRESSION- OVERCOMING THE STIGMA-LET’S TALK

(By Dr. Megha Sarin, M.Phil (Clinical Psychology), Clinical Psychologist, Manobhaav Psychological Services)

As per WHO depression affects around more than 300 million people across the world, and although there are known, effective treatments for depression, fewer than half of those affected in the world (in many countries, fewer than 10%) receive such treatments. Looking at the statistics it’s high time we come out of our shells and talk openly about this problem. I have observed that to date people want to hide depression, don’t want to talk about it openly and end up feeling worse than ever, but we must talk about our feelings and seek the right kind of help so that we can overcome this globally rated phenomenon to which we are losing so many lives.

WHAT IS DEPRESSION

Depression is beyond plain sadness. ‘I feel hopeless, I can’t concentrate on my work, nobody understands me, things will never get better, I don’t want to talk to anyone, please leave me alone, I don’t know why am I so sad, why is all this happening only with me, I distract myself and make many attempts to uplift my mood but it doesn’t really change, I am not fulfilling my responsibilities and I am to blame for everything wrong that’s happening with me and my family.’

These are some common phrases we often hear from people who are suffering from depression, they are confused regarding their own emotions, and lose confidence in themselves, despite this they are afraid of opening up to the society due to self and societal stigmas. Most often a lot of people also tell me that when we open up to our families they say ‘distract your mind, control your thoughts, you are just overthinking’. I am not saying they don’t provide support but we need to understand that for a person battling depression these phrases may be very discouraging because it’s not easy to stop overthinking they need the right kind of medical support to feel better.

Now let’s have a look at the signs and symptoms of depression so that we can identify and seek help at the right time.

 Some signs and Symptoms of Depression

  • Sadness of Mood
  • Decreased interest in Interacting with others
  • Decreased interest in activities that gave happiness at one point of time
  • Decreased self-confidence and low self-worth
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Changes in appetite (feelings of hunger)
  • Low energy levels

Keep a check on these signs, if you or anyone around you seems to be displaying any of these consistently do not hesitate, you must socialize, talk about it with loved ones, and visit a mental health professional you will definitely find a way out. These symptoms of depression also have a huge impact on an individual’s social, occupational and interpersonal life. Early identification will facilitate timely treatment and reduce long term distress leading to a better tomorrow.

Some Myths associated with depression

Some common phrases people usually associate to depression are it’s not an illness, it’s all in the head, you are using it as an excuse to escape responsibilities, don’t talk about it just distract your mind,  you are going in self-pity mode, it’s a sign of weakness etc. These are all myths.

Another common myth associated with depression is that it lasts for a lifetime. I come across many people in my OPD who feel that this long prevailing sadness, hopelessness and negativity have become a permanent part of their personality and that they will have to live like this forever.

But this not the case, scientifically speaking depression has a biological basis, infact it happens due to imbalance of certain chemicals in our brain which can also get triggered by environmental stressors. This imbalance may also affect one’s ability to deal effectively with daily life situations and lead to hopelessness, sadness and other depressive symptoms. Thus this negativity is just a symptom of depression and like symptoms of any other physical illness, symptoms of depression also go away with the right kind of treatment.

Seeking Help

Now that we know that Depression has a biological basis and is like any other physical illness therefore, the symptoms associated with it are also not permanent they do improve with the right kind of treatment. So what is the right kind of treatment?

A combination of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy works wonders in treating depression, however this does vary according to the severity of the illness. Psychiatrist provides medication to help in getting over the disorder. Psychotherapy also has a big role to play in recovery of depressive illness. If we look at it from the angle of someone battling depression that person requires a non-judgmental neutral space where the individual can talk without any hesitations or apprehensions. Along with facilitating a space to talk, a trained psychotherapist also teams up with the individual to work on the negative thought patterns, maintaining a daily routine, and also helps in improving upon current coping and problem solving skills. So in a nutshell a trained psychotherapist helps in eradicating the problem from the root.

Along with taking medical treatment one can also following the below mentioned tips:

  • Don’t over pressurize self to fight with thoughts, instead accept that they are plainly symptoms and will go away with time, this will motivate you to move further instead of getting stuck on fighting with the thoughts. This can be done easily with the help of psychotherapy.
  • Set realistic goals with the therapist.
  • Go ahead and socialize it may be uncomfortable initially but eventually it will definitely make you person feel better.
  • Follow a schedule, a consistent schedule which includes some exercise of your choice as well.
  • Do not meditate until and unless advised by your doctor, because in some cases meditation in early stages of depression may worsen the condition. .
  • Involve family and friends.
  • Do not be in a haste, mood improves gradually it does not happen overnight thus give it time but be consistent in your approach towards a better positive future.

If anyone in your family seems to be suffering from depression never pass statements like you can’t be so weak, thoughts are nothing just control them, or any other similar statements, this may be your attempt to motivate the person but it usually ends up discouraging them. As a family member you just need to encourage them to talk about their problem, avoid giving excessive suggestions in an attempt to motivate them, all you need to do is lend them a listening ear.  Help them in managing their daily routine motivate them, make them feel understood, your mere presence and support will make all the difference.

Always remember the earlier you seek help the better it is. So what are we waiting for let’s talk, seek help and remove the stigma. Let’s look forward to a better tomorrow.

 

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