“I’m Depressed” – What you need to know before saying that

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The word Depression is used over 5 times everyday by a person who is stressed, feeling blue, or sad. However, there is much more to depression than what we have understood of it. Firstly, it is not synonymous with sadness or a feeling of listlessness. The reason we use the word Depression as lightly as a replacement of feelings of sadness is a portrayal of how lightly we take the issue itself. It is quite common, no doubt, but it is a serious condition that requires professional help. However, it can range from mild to severe depression.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

However, these symptom(s) might be present in all of us at different points in time, the symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression. Also, medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumor or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression so it is important to rule out general medical causes.

In 2017, the Pakistan Medical Association conducted a research that found that depression is alarmingly high in urban areas compared to its rural counterparts. “Around 35.7 per cent citizens of Karachi are affected with mental illness, while 43pc people in Quetta and 53.4pc in Lahore are also affected,” said Dr Qaisar Sajjad, secretary general of the PMA in a statement.

Depression Is Different From Sadness or Grief/Bereavement

The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship are difficult experiences for a person to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe themselves as being “depressed.”

But being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities. They are also different in important ways:

In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for most of two weeks.

In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.

For some people, the death of a loved one can bring on major depression. Losing a job or being a victim of a physical assault or a major disaster can lead to depression for some people. When grief and depression co-exist, the grief with depression is more severe and lasts longer than grief without depression. Despite some overlap between grief and depression, they are different. Distinguishing between them can help people get the help, support or treatment they need.

However, don’t be reluctant to reach out to those who are sad, because sadness can turn into depression as well. However, do keep a lookout for people who might actually be depressed, but may be hiding it. Listening to them might help them either get out of the depressive phase of it is mild, or help them get the courage to seek professional help for their depression. Nonetheless, caring and looking out for your friends and acquaintances can never be overemphasized.

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