What is Depression?
Depression is a common illness, and around 5% of the world’s population suffers from it. Though often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, the number of people experiencing this condition is only on the rise. According to the American Psychiatry Association, depression is a serious medical disease that affects how you feel, think and act. This mental health condition causes feelings of sadness and physical problems that reduce or impede one’s ability to work or function normally.
It is important to note that depression is different from mood changes or emotions that we experience in our daily lives. Severe cases of depression can lead to suicide, a leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds. Though depression is a treatable condition, over 75% of people in middle and low-income countries do not have access to appropriate treatment or specialists. Many others fail to seek care due to the stigma associated with mental health conditions.
There are different types of depression, the two most common ones being major depression and persistent depressive disorder.
What are the Major Symptoms of Depression?
Depression presents with varying degrees of symptoms– from mild to severe. Major symptoms of depression include:
Feeling sad or dejected
Loss of interest in routine activities or activities that were once pleasurable
Changes in appetite
Loss or gain of weight
Excessive sleeping or insomnia
Persistent anxiety or feeling down
Pessimistic views or feeling hopeless
Failure to concentrate on work at hand
Feeling excessively guilty
Frequent thoughts of dying
Inability to make decisions
Frequent and chronic aches, pains, headaches and cramps
Why Don’t People Seek Care for Depression?
Despite the seriousness of depression, the number of people who seek care for it is minuscule. Some common reasons for this behaviour in people are:
Fear of stigma or shame
One of the biggest reasons people do not opt for treatment or seek care from a mental health specialist is fear of stigma or shame. Mental health illnesses, unfortunately, are often looked down upon. Due to this reason, many people fear admitting to having depression and seeking care, which affects their personal and professional lives.
Lack of awareness
Many people fail to seek care because they are unaware of their issues. It is common for these people to minimise their depression to ‘stress’ or ‘something everyone faces or experiences’. Few people have never heard of or don’t know what depression is.
Inability to determine the condition
Some people do not pay attention to their symptoms and fail to determine something is wrong with them. They just go about their lives and do not pause to think about their feelings.
Inability to admit
It is very common to find depressed people who fail to admit or accept they are suffering from the condition. These people are challenging to manage and fail to comply with loved ones who want them to seek professional help.
Failure to see hope in treatment
Severely depressed people fail to seek treatment as they believe there is no hope in life or that life cannot get better. These people feel nothing can help them or their life.
Lack of resources
A large section of the population is unaware of what to do about their depression or who to go to for help.
Inaccessibility to suitable care
A significant number of the world’s population with depression suffers from practical barriers and inaccessibility to appropriate mental health care.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Depression if Ignored?
Depression is a serious medical condition and must be treated. Failure to treat the condition for any reason can result in long-term effects on an individual’s mental, emotional, physical, and psychological health. Some consequences of untreated depression include:
Digestive issues and stomach ache
Joint and muscle aches
Increased risk for chronic illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, stroke and Alzheimer’s
Reduced immunity increases the risk of infections
Strain or problems in existing relationships
Failure to form new friendships or romantic bonds
Breakups and divorces
Loss of productivity that may increase the risk of job loss
Risk of alcoholism or substance abuse
Depression may sound scary, but it can be treated with the right supportive environment. As part of this society, we must open our hearts and provide any support that someone around us with depression may need. If you are experiencing any symptoms of depression or know someone who does, seek prompt, professional help. Remember that depression is not a permanent condition. Most people with depression can bring their lives back on track with medications, psychotherapy, behavioural therapy and interacting with support groups.