Everyone feels sad at some point or another. Depression, or feeling sad, is a normal emotion. We feel sad when we encounter disappointments in life – be it a difficult life situation or the loss of a loved one. For most of us, over time we learn to overcome our problems or accept changes in our lives. But for others, the depression can become so severe that it dominates their lives and prevents them from coping as they used to.
Depression of this degree is not just a passing 'blue mood,' but an illness that needs to be treated. It affects the body, mood and thoughts to a point of dysfunction. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, how one feels about oneself, and how one thinks about things. It is not something that can be simply willed away.
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Signs and Symptoms
The following are some of the common symptoms which surface during bouts of depression. A person who experiences five or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks may have a depressive illness:
- Persistent sadness; or feeling down or gloomy
- A loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Weight loss or weight gain; or decrease or increase in appetite
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; or sleeping excessively
- Feeling agitated or restless
- Feeling tired and lacking the energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Difficulty concentrating or having trouble thinking
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Depression is highly treatable. When depression is recognised and treated, a person’s quality of life can be greatly improved.
Medicine is prescribed according to each individual’s symptoms, so there is no 'one size fits all' type of antidepressant. Some people respond better to one medicine than another. With most of these medicines, improvement does not usually show immediately. It takes one to three weeks before changes occur. Some symptoms diminish early in treatment; others, later. Energy levels or sleeping and eating patterns, for example, may improve before the depressed mood lifts. To give medication time to work, it should be continued for six to 12 months (or longer) as instructed. For those who have had several bouts of depression, long-term treatment with medication is the most effective means of preventing more episodes.
Psychotherapy can be defined as “psychological treatment through the establishment of a relationship between the therapist and patient for the purpose of relieving symptoms and correcting unhealthy patterns of behaviour.” The key is in managing the relationship, and this requires training and experience.
The depressed person is helped through talking with a therapist, as opposed to relying solely on medication. A trained and experienced therapist can provide a safe platform for a depressed person to work through his issues through formal psychotherapy. There is a variety of psychotherapies which can be tailored to the individual’s needs.
To make an appointment to see a doctor, please call 6389 2200.