How Do I Know if I or a Loved One Is Suffering From Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that adversely affects how individuals think, feel and act. It is a common condition that has affected many worldwide and is estimated that about 5% of adults suffer from depression. Depression can also affect young children and teenagers as they juggle various types of pressures and expectations, studies and other issues.
Individuals with depression persistently feel down or sad or have lost interest in daily activities, even those that they once enjoyed. This can create various emotional and physical problems, which in turn, can have a significant negative impact on these individuals’ daily functioning and quality of life.
Types of Depression
There are different types of depression, which include:
- Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or commonly referred to as a clinical depression. This is considered a more serious form of depression and individuals diagnosed with MDD experience specific symptoms that last for more than 2 weeks.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). This is a chronic form of depression in which the individual experiences specific symptoms for at least 2 years.
- Bipolar Disorder. This form of depression is marked by periods of abnormally elevated mood (mania).
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or major depressive disorder that is seasonal. This could result from changes to the body’s natural daily rhythms or the sensitivity of the eyes to light.
- Postpartum Depression (PPD). PDD can occur at the beginning of pregnancy, during pregnancy or in the first 12 months after childbirth.
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Individuals with PMDD experience more severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), especially those related to mood.
Causes of Depression
It is not known what causes depression exactly, but many possible factors, or a combination of these factors, could trigger depression. They are:
- Traumatic events, such as abuse
- Financial woes
- Chronic illnesses or conditions
- Changes in life events, e.g. unemployment, divorce
- Lack of support
- Genetics, e.g. history of depression in the family
- Low self-esteem
- Stress at work
- Relationship issues, e.g. marital discord, conflicts with family or friends, etc.
- Emotional neglect
- Death or Loss
- Side effects of certain medications
- Different brain structures. The brains of individuals with depression may be physically different from others
- Brain chemicals imbalance. Excessive or insufficient chemicals in the brain may be another cause. These chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters, help facilitate communication among the nerve cells
- Hormonal changes. Fluctuating hormonal levels, due to pregnancy, menopause, etc., could lead to depression
- Learned and continued patterns of negative thinking
Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms can vary and they range from mild to severe, depending on the type of depression. Some warning signs and symptoms of depression could include:
- Frustration or anger
- Irritability or Annoyance
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure and the need for excessive reassurance
- Recurring self-harm thoughts
- Tiredness and loss of energy
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite — decreased appetite and weight loss or increased cravings and weight gain
- Increased intake of alcohol or drugs (substance abuse)
- Agitation or restlessness
- Persistent unexplained body aches and headaches
- Social isolation
- Less attention paid to personal hygiene or appearance
- Sudden and frequent outbursts of anger
- Difficulty with thinking, concentrating, making decisions or remembering things
Physical and Behavioural
Depression in Children and Teenagers
Parents, you can also look out for these possible signs of depression in your young child or teenager.
- Have a feeling of sadness that persists for days
- Exhibit disruptive or interfering behaviour that negatively affects their normal daily routine at home, school or socially
- Have a sudden increase or decrease in appetite
- Withdraw socially
- Have frequent outbursts or crying
For young children, some of the tell-tale signs could include:
For teenagers, some of the tell-tale signs could include:
- Have a feeling of sadness and hopelessness that could last for weeks
- Express worthlessness or guilt persistently
- Exhibit self-injurious behaviour
- Use alcohol or drugs
- Perform poorly at school consistently
Coping with Depression
The good news is, depression is treatable — especially if help is sought early. Here are five useful tips on how you can cope with depression.
Tip 1: Take active steps to change your lifestyle
Depression depletes energy and enthusiasm for life in general. But making certain lifestyle adjustments can improve your mood greatly. Start by taking small steps to do things that can boost your energy and mood, for example, calling a loved one, going for a walk, etc.
Tip 2: Establish a healthy diet
Apart from a healthy lifestyle, a healthy diet also contributes to good health and well-being. Eating healthily can help prevent, delay or manage certain chronic conditions. That is why it is important to improve your nutrition and form good eating habits.
Tip 3: Build a supportive community of family and friends
Establish connections with the people who matter the most and whom you know will provide you with unconditional support and love. If you do not feel like socialising, start small by engaging frequently with only one person.
Tip 4: Create a routine
Develop and follow a routine to establish a pattern of healthy habits, such as going to sleep, waking up or eating at fixed timings.
Tip 5: Seek professional help
If you are experiencing ongoing symptoms of depression, consult a psychologist/psychiatrist for a formal assessment and diagnosis of your condition. Appropriate and timely specialised intervention and care are critical in your recovery process. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your treatments could include medications or Psychotherapy, or both.
Self-help methods and professional help can work in tandem. Your psychologist would also encourage you to engage in self-care during your treatment.
What are Counselling and Psychotherapy?
There are several treatment options and medications available to treat depressions. Some individuals may require one form while others a combination of treatments, depending on their condition.
Counselling and Psychotherapy or “talk therapies” are interventions that can benefit people with depression. They help these individuals develop greater self-awareness or self-understanding and make necessary and positive changes in their lives.
Is there a difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?
These forms of therapy are rather similar and their terms are often used interchangeably. However, the difference between them is that:
“In the context of mental health, "counselling" is generally used to denote a relatively brief treatment that is focused primarily on behaviour. It often targets a particular symptom or problematic situation and offers suggestions and advice for dealing with it. In this setting, the counsellor offers guidance and support as the individual figures out ways to better manage life and adjust to change or adversity.
"Psychotherapy" on the other hand is generally a longer-term treatment that focuses more on gaining insight into chronic physical and emotional problems. Its focus is on the person's thought processes, and how these may be influenced by past events such that they cause problems in the present. In other words, psychotherapy addresses the root cause and core issues of current problems so that lasting change and personal growth may occur.” Nancy Schimelpfening. (December 24, 2020). Visiting a Counselor vs. Psychotherapist. Very Well Mind.
How to Choose a Counsellor/Psychologist?
If you or a loved one is considering undergoing Counselling and/or Psychotherapy, here are some points to keep in mind when choosing a suitable counsellor or psychologist:
- How are the psychologist’s interpersonal skills?
- Is the psychologist able to create a rapport with you?
- Is the psychologist able to build trust and understanding?
- How well can the psychologist provide an adaptive explanation for your condition?
- Does the psychologist develop an individualised treatment plan?
- Is there flexibility in the service delivery models, that is, availing the options to conduct the sessions at the centre, at your home or online?
- Is the psychologist influential and persuasive?
- Does the psychologist monitor your progress? What is the frequency of these evaluations?
- Does the psychologist maintain open communication with you?
- Is the psychologist easily accessible and contactable?
- Is there a long waiting time before your next session?
- Does the psychologist offer realistic optimism?
- Is the psychologist innovative and adaptive?
- Does the psychologist use best practices and research-based strategies and techniques?
- Does the psychologist continually seek self-improvement through professional development?
- What are the psychologist’s qualifications and specialities?
- Does the psychologist have any experience, including the length of experience, in treating individuals with depression?
Studies have shown that the relationship between the psychologist and the individual they treat is also a key factor in ensuring the success of the individual’s counselling or psychotherapy. This is why you must be comfortable working with your psychologist, apart from other considerations that are unique to your needs and preferences.
How Can You Help a Loved One With Depression?
Depression can affect people of all ages, gender, races and professions. Depression, however, should not be seen as a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It is a health condition that can and should be treated. Accepting, supporting and encouraging individuals with depression can go a long way towards aiding their recovery.
Here are some ways you can provide help and support if you have a loved one suffering from depression:
- Tell your loved one about your concern regarding their condition in a non-judgmental and calm manner.
- Listen without jumping to a conclusion or passing remarks hastily.
- Give them a safe space to share their feelings, thoughts or concerns.
- Suggest the option that they seek professional care gently, and where possible, accompany them for these sessions.
- Reassure them of your support and understanding.
- Remain patient if they lash out, are resistant to any forms of help or becomes emotionally unstable. Forcing them to do something they do not want to or are not ready to do will do more harm than good.
- Extend a helping hand in daily activities, e.g. suggesting to run their errands on their behalf.
- Help ensure they maintain a healthy lifestyle, e.g. eating the right types of food, getting sufficient hours of sleep, engaging in regular physical activities, etc.
- Encourage them by recognising signs of improvements and the effort they have put in.
- If they are receiving treatment, help monitor their progress and get regular updates from their Psychologist.
Whether you or a loved one is struggling with depression or have questions about depression, we welcome you to speak to one of our Psychologists.
Dynamics Psychological Practice’s multilingual team of Psychologists is clinically trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating adults and children with depression. Reach out to us here to see how we can help you or your loved ones overcome this challenge.