Depression: The Basics of This Mental Illness

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While it might be hard to explain “depression”. Most of us know of a depressed relative, colleague or a friend of a friend who’s suffered. The projection is that by 2020 depression might be the second most common cause of death and disability across the world after ischemic heart disease.

Depression is generally viewed as just a phase, a sadness that one will get over or something one should deal with as an inevitable part of life. People should understand that depression can affect even the strongest when they are vulnerable. It’s not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It is a real and treatable medical illness. Read about depression: the basics of this mental illness.

What is Depression?

The word “depressed” has become a much abused word in our everyday vocabulary. When one says “I am feeling depressed”, it might actually just mean that one is feeling dull, low or unwell. Everybody feels unhappy at times – it’s a normal emotion, but depression is different from the usual mood fluctuations. Sadness might be painful but it isn’t a constant. Depression, on the other hand, haunts a person every moment for days at length. Also, while sadness or even grief makes you feel, depression is a mind-numbing absence of feeling; of hopelessness. It is a period of sadness or low motivation that lasts for more than two weeks in a row. It’s severe enough to interfere with one’s day to day functioning. And is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, loneliness and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Who Needs Pills?

Not everyone who’s diagnosed with depression needs to be put on a dose of antidepressants right away. Medication may be required only if the condition has persisted over 2-3 weeks, is severe enough to make everyday routine impossible and counselling has shown little improvement. Antidepressants are especially effective in relieving symptoms quickly. Only a qualified psychiatrist can  diagnose depression and prescribe medicines. You will have to visit him/ her for multiple sessions before the treatment is fixed. The World Health Organization (WHO) States: “Recommended treatment for moderate to severe depression should consist of basic psychosocial support, combined with antidepressant medication or talk therapy.”

Things You Must-Know

  • Antidepressants don’t work immediately. There is usually a 2-3 week long lag (or longer) between the start of treatment and its therapeutic effect.
  • Do not skip your medicines – if irregular, they are of no use.
  • Do not change your dosage without consulting your physician; also, never miss your follow-up visits.
  • If your symptoms don’t improve after 3-4 weeks, be candid with your doctor about how you’re feeling and any side-effects you might be experiencing. You may need a higher dose or a different medicine.
  • Remember that antidepressants are gradually tapered off.
  • For many people, depression can become a chronic illness.