Depression

Depression

Depression is a mood disorder involving a number of symptoms. Its main characteristic is a deep overwhelming feeling of sadness that does not easily resolve, even in seemingly good circumstances. It can occur in episodes or linger for very long periods.

Symptoms

Symptoms of depression include:

  • A feeling of deep sadness
  • Sleep issues (difficulty falling and/or staying asleep, oversleeping, waking up feeling foggy and tired)
  • Appetite issues (little to no appetite or overeating)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of interest & motivation in things previously enjoyed
  • Feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Irritability or intense anger
  • Body aches
  • Suicidal ideation & attempts

Types

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
  • Substance/Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder
  • Depressive Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition
  • Other Specified Depressive Disorder
  • Unspecified Depressive Disorder

Causes

Depression can be caused by risk factors such as genes, biology, life experiences and some medications. A person is at higher risk of developing a depressive disorder if they experience the following:

  • Childhood trauma, trauma and highly stressful life events (e.g. abuse, loss, heartbreak, disaster)
  • Family history/Genetics (runs in the family)
  • Chronic illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Longterm stress
  • Side effects of some medications

Treatment

Treatment includes one or a combination of:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication (Antidepressants)
  • Lifestyle & behavioral changes
  • Alternative therapies when medication has not worked (Electroconvulsive therapy, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Vagus Nerve Stimulation, Ketamine infusion, etc.)

African Context

We often see examples of people with depression in the media, who stay in bed or on the couch for days. They do not go out or engage with others. This may work in the West because there are systems such as welfare and unemployment benefits that can help sustain a person. However, in almost all African countries, no such support structures exist. So to survive, most people show up to work or school despite feeling depressed.  The culture in the West is quite individualistic whereas  Africans are generally collectivistic. So it would be quite difficult to stay indoors for days without a friend or family member literally forcing you to go out. Finally, because showing a depressed mood is socially unacceptable, it often manifests as irritability and anger, especially in men. Because of this, many Africans struggle with depression and do not even recognize it. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, reach out to a professional for help. You do not have to suffer in silence with this disease. It is possible to overcome it, and lead a healthy and stable lifestyle. 

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