'Rethinking: Depression' Questions we all had about depression- Now answered!
Depression is a serious mental illness which negatively affects the way you think, and impairs your ability to function normally. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. It is important to understand that these symptoms are experienced in daily life but the number of symptoms you have, the duration they last for and the stronger they are lead to the diagnosis of depression.
The symptoms include hopelessness, helplessness, feeling of guilt or worthlessness, suicidal tendencies, unjustified fatigue, ennui – lack of enthusiasm - even menial tasks like getting up or brushing your teeth may seem exhausting; increased or decreased appetite, changes in sleep pattern, restlessness, irritability, low tolerance, loss of concentration, hampered decision making, and anger issues, among others.
Depression is a complex illness and it is hard to understand what exactly pushes an individual towards depression, as there can be various events and experiences which contribute towards it. Having said that, major events like perpetual failure or difficulty in completing a goal, long term unemployment, financial crisis, a mentally or physically abusive/toxic relationship, failing an important exam, breakup/ divorce, etc. can be defining reasons for depression Sometimes, events that seem pleasant, like getting into a desired college or getting married can cause depression. Your family history also plays a role in depression, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be inherited. Your personality is also a major factor to consider- if you are always anxious, a perfectionist, if you have low self-esteem or are sensitive to criticism, etc. it can make you drift towards depression. Alcohol and substance abuse can be a cause or a result of depression.
Some individuals may seem to be functioning normally while being depressed (high-functioning individuals), this can persist for years without the victim or the people around them noticing. In such cases it becomes difficult to diagnose and treat depression.
But depression doesn’t always need a reason, it is a common notion that you have to justify why you are feeling depressed, which is not essential. In most cases the victim themself don’t know why they are experiencing such feelings.Mental health is highly subjective and shouldn’t be judged on presumptions. For example, just because an individual doing financially well has a good support system does not mean they cannot be depressed.
Sadness is a normal human emotion to experience when going through something difficult or experiencing something hurtful and it fades when things get better or when you get acclimatized to those circumstances. It also gets better after crying or talking to someone. It is important to remember that sadness is not depression. With the term 'depression' being casually thrown around in conversations, it is very easy to assume so. Depression affects all parts of your life, you feel sad without any context, you do not enjoy things you previously enjoyed. Sadness is an element of depression, but the intensity, period and its effects need to be considered to differentiate between normal feelings and depressive ones.
Since it is difficult to pin-point a clear cause for depression and factors that cause it are usually not in control of the individual; it is not preventable. But if you have an early diagnosis, have had an episode of depression previously or just want to maintain a good mental health, here are some lifestyle changes that can be really helpful:
Exercise- which includes any type of physical activity like dancing, cycling, jogging, etc.
Maintaining strong and healthy relations with friends and family is considered to be one of the best ways to manage mental health as conversations in such circles can be a great outlet for your feelings and may also provide some insight.
Reduce stress by avoiding over-commitment to certain things. Try prioritizing your tasks.
Cut off toxic people if you can, you don’t need them in your life.
Having a good diet improves mental health. Incorporate fresh vegetables and fruit, more protein and reduce carbohydrates and processed food.
Identify your triggers and prepare before approaching them by asking someone to check on you or talking to yourself.
Try taking therapy, viz. Approach people whom you are comfortable talking about your problems and difficulties or talk to a trained stranger i.e. a counsellor or therapist.
Sleep plays an important role in mental and physical health. 8 hours of sleep in a comfortable and hygienic environment is necessary.
Breathing exercises, meditation, art therapy, yoga, can also be useful.
According to research, a quarter of all medical students face depression at some point in their medical career. This is because they face many stressors like vast academic syllabi, assessments, large workload and also the pressure of clinical practice. In such situations, one can use following strategies to deal with rough times:
In positive reframing you remove the stress from the stressor by looking at new possibilities instead of looking at threats. You do this by first identifying the element that is stressing you and whether it is in your control.
If the element is in your control, you can brainstorm ways to change it instead of just hoping it would change. If an element is not in your control then you need to face it by thinking about what benefits you will gain from overcoming it.
Acceptance based thinking
If you feel you are in a hopeless situation that cannot be changed, you need to accept it without any judgment instead of cribbing or procrastinating. When you do this it will help your thinking move forward about what can be done to improve the situation and plan accordingly.
Tips for medical students specifically:
Break down your workload and manage time efficiently.
Set your priorities right and stick to them.
Do not lose track, keep your end goal in mind.
Visualize yourself as a doctor, this will provide you the ultimate motivation to get through things.
Do not compare yourself to others, everyone has different abilities and flaws, know your own and work on them.
If you ever feel too overwhelmed take a break, do something you enjoy.
Seeking help and support is necessary for depression because when you are fighting alone you may not be able to maintain a healthy perspective and might end up beating yourself down. Consciously bring yourself to talk to someone whom you are comfortable with and will listen to you without judgements, this can be a loved one or a mental health professional. If someone close to you is undergoing treatment try to keep a check on them, make sure they aren’t missing any sessions, refrain yourself from giving advice and try to be a good and active listener.
Depression is treatable in majority of the cases, but there is no specific treatment for depression as it depends on the needs of the individual. Different treatment options are available, including medication, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes or learning self-help/coping mechanisms.
There is a lot of stigma around mental health disorders, this causes people to be ashamed of their condition and prevents them from seeking help. Someone who is already going through something like depression is brought down even more when they see how society treats those with such issues.This stigma needs to be eradicated by learning and spreading awareness about mental health.
'Rethinking' is a series of online sessions organized by Project You in collaboration with Leo Club of Navi Mumbai APMC and My Safe Therapy. Throughout the course of the series, myths, facts and common notions about various mental illnesses will be elucidated, one session at a time. The sessions are conducted on Zoom and YouTube. Follow our social media handles to not miss any the details about the upcoming sessions! You can also subscribe to us and get notified about future events by emails!