'I feel depressed'. You must have heard or said this before. Yet depression goes beyond sadness, irrespective of how intense the sadness is. Depression is a mental disorder arising out of imbalances of certain hormones. This imbalance is caused by vulnerability induced in us by particular genes or early life experiences, and triggered by our current life events.
This means that it is more complicated than sadness. Sadness is a natural human emotion that cannot be negated or avoided. It does not necessarily show same signs, or occur for a prolonged period of time, as depression does. Prolonged low mood, guilt, tiredness, lack of motivation, etc. are some symptoms that mark depression.
In 2017, the World Health Organisation, in a report, estimated that about 57 million people in India suffer from depression. This is 18% of the world estimate. And the numbers are predicted to increase soon.
You need to look out for certain signs and symptoms in case you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from depression. Besides extreme low mood, high irritability, loss of appetite, inability to get out of bed, hopelessness, helplessness, thoughts of suicide, and low self-esteem may be tell-tale signs of depression. Children may also show signs of tantrums, complaints of headache and stomach ache, and boredom.
Usually the signs need to be monitored for about 2 weeks, before going to seek help. And the severity and type may also differ.
The WHO report (2017) also point out that about 87.2-95.7% Indians with depression don't get treated. However, it is essential to consult a psychiatrist. The normal functioning of daily life can return with help.
But it is easier said than done. Let's face it - mental health care is either expensive or poor in quality. Moreover, efficient professionals have a long wait-list. So, till you find a suitable professional, there are some things you can do.
The following techniques will help you manage your depression, although they cannot replace psychotherapy.
In depression, you may not feel like eating at all, or eat unhealthy food. Make a conscious effort to change. When you do not feel like eating, coax your mind into taking just one bite. When you feel like eating a lot, switch to complex carbohydrates and fruits, instead of sugar and fast-food.
We lose a lot of sleep during this period. If falling asleep takes time, try going to bed early, free of mobile phones. Listen to sleep-inducing music. Use aromas that help induce sleep. Try drinking chamomile tea before going to bed.
People without much social support often undergo depression. With the city-life and migration distancing us from our kin, it is best to try finding a reliable social support network. You may feel there is no one for you. But try talking about your issue to your support network, even if you have to force it out initially.
Make a schedule for the day. Do not keep it too packed-up. Try planning out something small in the beginning - even if it is something as small as simply getting out of bed and taking a 10-minute walk. Then as you accomplish this, try inculcating more activities slowly. Remember! 'Baby steps' is the key here.
Besides this, try keeping a note of all the negative thoughts that cross your mind, their triggers and possibilities. You can use the Dysfunctional Thought Record form for this (check reference 1 and 3).
I reiterate here that following the above mentioned guide is difficult. But it will get better eventually.
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