‘Health is wealth’ is a phrase in which every word is deemed true. While WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION defines health as physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being, mental health is something that isn’t always considered. As lightly as it is thought of, mental health issues have turned into a malady monster threatening the well-being of many lives. From a long list of mental maladies, depression has emerged a trending topic that has grasped much attention world wide. More and more people are falling victim to depression everyday. Depression has created a cause for concern. Depression is referred to as the third common illness which has affected lives globally. This is known as a non-communicable disease and has plagued the society. This issue was addressed by Dr. M. Sakthilandran of the District General Hospital, Chilaw at the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Centre, Dehiwala recently. The doctor provided an in depth explanation on the medical malady, the ins and outs of depression and stated that it is completely curable.
According to Dr. Sakthilandran, it is a disorder that can affect our day to day activities. “It doesn’t imply the depletion of happiness. Instead it is the inability to experience or express happiness. Depression is a mood disorder,” he said. Depression is said to occur when there is a change in the concentration of neuro-chemicals in the brain.
Depression is devastating, deteriorating as well as disabling. But fortunately it is completely curable. It is a disorder that is easily treated through treatment. Successful therapies are available as treatment. But only less than 10 of patients opt for treatment.
Dr. Sakthilandran stated that nearly 300 million are affected worldwide by depression. “One in eight people are affected by depression. More females fall victim to depression than men,” he explained.
Sometimes other conditions can be confused with depression. These conditions may develop into complications. There are over-treated cases too. With these cases another mental condition had been misinterpreted as depression. Therefore it is of vital importance to diagnose depression properly.
Three classic symptoms of the disease were accentuated by the doctor. They are; a persistent low mood, lack of interest in things or lack of enjoyment and the lack of energy.
“If you seem to suffer from these three symptoms, chances are you suffer from depression. Next you should check whether you suffer from other symptoms to confirm the disorder. The other symptoms include lack of sleep, disturbed sleep, awakening early, excessive sleep, inability to awaken fresh from sleep, poor concentration, low self esteem, poor appetite, overeating, suicidal ideas, attempts at suicide, agitation, guilt, and self blaming,” he explained.
The severity of depression can be diagnosed by grading oneself in relation to the symptoms. If a person suffers from less than 3 symptoms, there is no danger of depression. If a person suffers from four symptoms, mild depression is a possibility. If a person suffers from 5-6 symptoms then he may suffer from moderate depression. But if symptoms exceed 7, then depression is of a severe state.
Death of a beloved, failure in occupation, financial burden, separation from family and family problems are stated as precipitating causes for depression.
Other risk factors
Dr. Sakthilandran listed out some other risk factors known to cause depression.
“Hereditary factors, stresses which include childhood stress due to repeated negative experiences, excess workload, work without relaxation, chronic pain, chronic illnesses such as arthritis, hypothyroidism, diabetes, long term pain, heart diseases, stroke, career, factors that affect brain organically, poor social support and living alone, alcohol and narcotic abuse, side effects of medication and other environmental factors give way to depression,”he elaborated.
According to Dr. Sakthilandran, there are several types of depression. This includes major or uni-polar depression, persistent depressive disorder, bi-polar depression, seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, postpartum depression, dementia syndrome depression, post stroke depression, endocrine related depression and post traumatic stress disorder. “The most extreme stage of depression is known as depressive stupor where the patient abstains from taking food and drink. In this state the person doesn’t show emotion. This poses a fatal risk where the patient could face death. In these cases a shock or ECT-Electro Convulsive Therapy- is recommended to save the patient,”he explained.
It is accepted that treatment is essential to overcome depression. This disorder is curable. A patient can recover successfully following proper treatment. ‘Treat early, Treat fully, Prevent relapses’ is what Dr. Sakthilandran referred to as treatment.
However the medical officer warned that if treatment is discontinued early, the next attack of depression could be severe. Treatments include medicinal drugs, psychotherapy, ECT and also lifestyle modifications. “Lifestyle modifications include exercise, meditation, music, trips, engaging in hobbies, sleep, sports, avoiding alcohol and narcotics, consumption of nutritious healthy food, spending time with family and friends and social services,”he said.
By taking steps to prevent depression one is taking a step closer to a healthy life.