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What is depression?

It is a medical illness in which the individual suffers from depressed mood. There is persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. There are specific forms of depression; Seasonal Affective Disorder – Usually comes in autumn and winters and is also related to the day length. Post-natal depression – Many mothers have “baby blues” after the birth of their baby. It may occur anytime between 2 weeks and 2 years after birth. Bi-polar Disorder (Manic Depressive) – Many have major mood swings, where periods of depression alternate with periods of mania. Mania is opposite of depressions, where individual is in elated mood.

Why and how is low mood or sadness different from depression?

The expression “I feel depressed”, when feeling sad or miserable is usually a feeling that will pass in due course. If the feeling persists and is interfering with your daily activity, then it requires medical attention.

How do I know I have depression?

Depression involves feeling of sadness and/or irritability; loss of interest and pleasure in normal activities; feeling of worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness and helplessness. It also includes changes such as tiredness, insomnia, changes in appetite, and self harm. Withdrawing self socially, could also be part of depression. Depression also affects ability to concentrate and decision making.

How do I check/screen the level of depression?

Any one of the following
*Feeling sad
*Tearful or irritated
*No interest in previously pleasurable activities

Any four of the following
*Decrease or increase in appetite
*Increased or decreased sleep
*Loss of energy
*Can’t concentrate and take decisions
*Feeling of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness
*Repetitive thoughts about harming self or ending one’s life
*Slow actions and behaviors

All three of the following
*The changes are causing problems in your school/college and in relations with others
*The changes are not due to any medical issues like hypothyroidism or drug use
*The changes are not in reaction to loss of a loved one

What causes depression?

Depressive disorders are disorders of the brain. The neuro-chemical changes in the brain may cause depression. Depression is common in people with biological family histories. When genetic vulnerability matches with stressful life circumstance, changes in neuro-chemicals cause depression.

Important facts and figures

Am I too young or old to be depressed?

Depression can happen in any age. Depression in teenage is a serious problem. Teenagers may exhibit heightened irritability and anger as part of depression, which is less likely in adult cases of depression. Am I the only young person suffering with depression? No, you are not the only one. 23.7% of adolescent population in India has been reported to be diagnosed with depression (Mohanraj & Subbaiah, 2010).

Could it be an emergency?

Yes, in case of active desire to end one’s life or harm self, can be called as an emergency issue and requires immediate hospitalization.

Why should I seek professional help?

Depression will not go away by itself; it is a medical condition that requires treatment and support. It can get worse if untreated. Seek professional help when you witness symptoms mentioned above for more than 2 weeks and its impacting your daily functioning.

Where do I seek help?

There are mental health professionals like psychiatrists and psychologists from where the patient could get help. Psychiatrist can provide medical help whereas psychologists can provide counseling sessions and psycho-therapies. You could contact the nearest hospital. Teenagers studying in schools and colleges can approach school counselors and they should be able to direct you further. If you finding difficult to trace any professional, contact VIMHANS: Vidyasagar Institute of mental health, neuro and allied sciences. 1 institutional area, Nehru Nagar, New Delhi- 110065 Ph: 29849010 ; Fax:91-11-29849031

What are my different treatment options?

Antidepressants primarily work on brain chemicals or neurotransmitters. Electroconvulsive therapy: it may be helpful in cases where medications and psychotherapy does not help a person’s treatment resistant depression. Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy: help identify negative thoughts, things contributing to depression and change them. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy: accepting life, living and paying attention to the present moment without being judgmental. Interpersonal Therapy: focuses on relationships. It helps to understand and work through troubled relationships. Behavioral activation: look at simple everyday tasks which you avoid and start doing them.

How long do I need to be in treatment?

Anti-depressants take 4-6 weeks to show full effect on clients. Medications are to be continued for longer than that, in order to prevent it from coming back. Medication should be stopped gradually under doctor’s supervision. In case of recurrent and chronic depression, medication may go for indefinite time. On an average 8-12 sessions of psychotherapy are required, along with medication. However, in cases of mild depression less than 8 sessions and in severe depression more than 12 sessions may be required. In chronic or recurrent depression, psychotherapy for as long as two years may be required.

How can I help my family member or friend, come out of depression?

Social support is the support that people from family and friends can offer like;
  • Assist and remind for regular treatment appointments
  • Patient listening
  • Encouragement
  • Offer hope
  • Be watchful of any extreme actions like suicide
  • Prompt to go for walks, pick up hobbies and meet people.

What can I do to help myself?

  • Break the cycle of negativity- being in the state of depression can then become a bigger problem than the actual difficulties.
  • Learn about depression- education empowers and motivates.
  • Encourage effective communication; create an environment where the person can share the concerns easily.
  • Stick to the treatment plan.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Pay attention to warning signs.
  • Connect with people and boost confidence.
  • Have realistic expectations.
  • Structure your time, plan your activities and organize them.
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Mind body connections- yoga, meditations, acupuncture, guided imagery, spirituality.

What lifestyle changes can support me in getting better?

  • Compliance to treatment plan
  • Early detection of symptoms
  • Physical exercise
  • No to alcohol and illegal drugs
  • Sound and adequate sleep