Most of us say “I’m depressed” a whole lot more than we need to. Being sad, unhappy and disappointed are feelings humans experience quite regularly. The use of the word “depression” this way, may make it difficult for some to understand the “depression” in the clinical sense. Every year, about 40% of people in the world get “depressed”. In the lay context, this may insinuate about 90% of Nigerians are depressed all year round. However, these negative feelings are likely to fade away when we talk to someone; have a good meal; switch jobs or even when PHCN restores power.
Only about 20% of the world’s population is diagnosed as clinically depressed with persistent symptoms which are listed below:
- Loss of interest or pleasure (medically- anhedonia) — things previously seen as fun are no longer perceived as such and there is a general loss of interest in everything. This occurs with low moods and four (4) or more of the following symptoms seen almost everyday for at least two weeks.
- Eating disorders (drastic weight gain or weight loss)
- Trouble getting to sleep, waking in the night, difficulty returning to sleep, early morning awakening, oversleeping.
- Psycho-motor retardation (meaning slow or reduced movements or sluggish thought process) or easy agitation.
- Low Libido
- Lethargy/fatigue, decreased energy.
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation without a specific plan.
- Tearfulness or inability to cry.
- Diminished ability to think, concentrate or indecisiveness — may have memory difficulties.
- Social withdrawal due to loss of motivation/interest; perception that others may be rejecting.
- Reduced efficiency in performing tasks, e.g. individuals may complain that washing and dressing in the morning are exhausting and take twice as long.
- Negative thoughts; individuals tend to see themselves, the world and future negatively.
In Nigeria, we have a way of trivializing how people really feel and most times, we may end up ignoring people that are actually clinically depressed. This is probably due to the stigma associated with going to a psychiatric hospital or perhaps, that which comes with associating with anyone that has received attention from a psychiatrist.
We Africans are often perceived as emotionally strong and being able to handle whatever happens to us. However, the factors below are predisposed to someone to getting depressed irrespective of their skin color or race.
There hasn’t been a specified cause of depression although, three (3) main triggers for developing depression:
- Social factors such as losing your job, isolation, divorce/breakup or bereavement
- Psychological factors such as abused childhood / family background
- Physical factors such as illnesses like influenza or glandular fever; long-term physical health problems; side-effects of medical treatments like chemotherapy.
It is also thought some people may have a genetic predisposition towards depression. Hormonal anomalies are also a suspected cause. Stressful events such as giving birth, unemployment, divorce, illness (especially terminal illnesses) and Vulnerability factors such as pain, physical illness, lack of intimate relationships, etc are usual suspects.
What does it feel like?
The experience can differ from person to person but it is often described as blackness within; a heavy burden; an overwhelming emptiness; despair and hopelessness. You may find that you isolate yourself from people you normally relate with, due to the uncertainty or whether or not to relate with them or your community at large. This is a very difficult reality to live in.
As with most illnesses, depression has its three (3) grades which are;
Depression can also be classified into the following based on causal factors:
- With (or without) biological features.
- With (or without) delusions or hallucinations
- With (or without) manic episodes i.e. bipolar or unipolar
Okay, enough with the boring medical terms. We hope though, that at least this gives you a better insight of what depression is really about. So the next time you are about to blurt out ‘I’m depressed’, be sure that you aren’t just disappointed or unhappy with a particular situation. If you are, those are easy to fix. Just take a step back, listen to good music, go and eat, hang out with the squad or do any positive activity to pull you out. If after trying to engage lot of positive energy you are still feeling low, or you seem to be experiencing some of the afore listed symptoms, kindly seek help.
Reach out to MANI; we can help. Let’s help you have a healthy mind and body!
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