We have all had those days that makes us feel gloomy or sad. We throw around the phrase “I’m depressed!” when we’ve had a trying day. But, when should we seek help? When should we acknowledge that this isn’t just a phase and isn’t just a moment of sadness?
Over the last year or so Jamaica has been talking about mental health and spreading awareness. The stigma and discrimination towards mental illness is slowly fading. Less people, when they think of someone who is mentally ill use crazy as a synonym, or only think of more dramatic illnesses such a schizophrenia. We are beginning to understand that mental illnesses can affect anyone and it comes in many colours. There is no stereotype for the mentally ill.
Psychiatry is a field that has a lot of definitions and criteria that must be met before someone can usually be diagnosed with an illness. Depression is classified as a mood disorder and called a depressive mood which can be either major depressive disorder or persistent depressive disorder.
I’ll be focusing on major depressive disorder.
Major Depressive Disorder
About 12% of the population at some point will have major depressive disorder, with women being twice as likely to experience this.
There are some theories as to why this occurs, it may be that there is some issue with the way how some information is sent in the brain, or problems with hormone balance in the body and/ or it might be physical problems with your brain and how it works.
Another factor, is the psychosocial factor, you might experience this because of negative views of self, world and future (Beck’s cognitive triad), or maybe something has changed in the environment. You can read more extensively here and from other sources.
With everything, there are risk factors, and just because you fall into one of these categories doesn’t mean that you will get this disorder- it just makes you more likely to. You are at risk if there’s a family history of suicide (whether attempt or completion of the act) and of depression. Your childhood experiences of neglect can put you at risk as well. Certain personality types, such, as insecure and obsessive types are more likely to become depressed. A lack of intimate relationships or being isolated socially and stressors that occur can also put you at risk.
So what should you be looking for in yourself or a loved one that might push you to seek help? Well here’s a list from the DSM- 5 Diagnostic Criteria for Major Depressive Episode
- depressed mood for most of the day, nearly everyday which is either reported by the person or observed by others
- markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day nearly every day
- significant and unintentional weight loss/ gain, or decrease/ increase in appetite nearly everyday
- insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day
- psychomotor agitation or retardation (moving really agitated or slowly) nearly every day
- fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
- feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
- diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
- recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide
A person must have five or more of these for a 2 week period and there’s a change in how the person is able to function. one of the symptoms has to be depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure. These must also not be related to the effects of a substance.
You can read more about this and other psychiatric disorders the DSM- 5 Manual.
If you are or anyone you know is experiencing the following symptoms visit your doctor right away. For persons who are suicidal they can be brought directly to the Accident and Emergency for a psychiatric consult and prevented from being a danger to themselves (and possibly others).
Depression can be treated many different ways, and it is a fairly individualised process, it can be in the form of lifestyle changes, where meditation and exercise become important. Therapy, as well as, need for medication may also become useful. Speak with your general practitioner and they will be able to guide you on whether it can be managed by them or there is need for a specialist.
I’ve very happy that mental illness is being spoken about. I think that it is time we acknowledge that mental illness do not have a face or a look- it can affect us all. If you care to, share your experience with mental illness below in the comments.
Samantha C. Johnson.
Source: Toronto Notes 2018