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Depression: The Signs to Watch For

July 03, 2012
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This article is written by Oluwakemi M Linda Banks, PhD , Associate Professor of Psychology at Saint James School of Medicine and was originally published in The Anguillian Newspaper on the 25th of September, 2011. Did you know that
  • Two in every ten people suffer from depressive disorders?
  • Only twenty five percent of those persons have been treated for this disorder?
  • Depression is the most common mental health disorder?
The good news is that depression can be successfully treated in most patients. About 50% of the people who suffer from depression are unaware of their diagnosis. This is known as “masked depression”. These people visit the doctor complaining of vague physical symptoms and are often said to be hypochondriacs. However, these persons would also show some of the signs of depression. Depressive disorders range from dysthymic disorders – when the person feels worse than could be expected, to major depression – feeling much worse, and bipolar disorder when the person vacillates between feeling very low and very high (manic). So what are some of the symptoms of depression?
  • A depressed mood and a loss of interest or pleasure
  • Feeling blue, hopeless, in the dumps, or worthless
  • The depressed mood is very different from normal sadness or grief
  • Patients talk about agonizing emotional pain and sometimes complain of being unable to cry
  • About one third contemplate suicide and about 10 to 15% commit suicide
  • Some depressed persons are unaware of their depression and do not complain but withdraw from family, friends and interests
  • Other symptoms include: reduced energy, difficulty completing tasks, low productivity at work or school, being less motivated to take on new projects, trouble sleeping, early morning awakening, multiple awakenings at night, decreased or increased appetite, weight loss or gain, and sleeping longer than usual.
  • Anxiety is found in 90% of cases of depression
  • Persons with bipolar disorder will vacillate between very elevated grandiose moods, erratic, uninhibited irritable behaviour (manic) to depressed moods
Here are some other facts about depression:
  • Depression can aggravate co-existing medical conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, eye disease and back pain
  • Symptoms can also include abnormal menses and sexual problems
  • Anxiety and alcohol abuse complicate treatment
  •  Depressed persons report more severe symptoms in the morning and a lessening by evening
  • Cognitive symptoms include self reported inability to concentrate, and impairment in thinking
  • Predictions are that depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020
  • Depression contributes to fatal coronary disease
  • Depression results in more absenteeism than almost any other physical disorder
  • Eighty percent of people who visit physicians are depressed
Depression is generally no respecter of persons. There are no differences related to ethnicity, education, marital status or income. There are, however, some gender related differences. Women have a higher incidence of severe depression, and men are more often in the manic phase of bipolar disorders. This difference is said to be related to the stress of child birth, the effects of hormones, psychosocial stressors, and childhood abuse. Depression is also more prevalent among those with no close relationships, who are separated or divorced. Older people who have lost their spouse, have few social contacts, a chronic physical illness and are financially insecure have a high incidence of depression. Contemporary statistics indicate that preschoolers and other school aged children are the fastest growing group of persons being identified with depression. A global increase in the incidence of depression will probably result from the current global economic depression. However there is some good news! Depression can be successfully treated with a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants, so if the symptoms listed in this article sound familiar to you seek treatment. You don’t have to keep feeling this way.
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