Ask Your Doctor: DEPRESSION
World Health Day, celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO), provides us with a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world. The theme of the World Health Day 2017 is, “Depression: Let’s talk”. Many individuals living in Anguilla have depression and unfortunately many fail to seek treatment. There are several myths in Anguilla related to depression and this article will discuss them.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It is also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression. It affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life is not worth living. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both. There is much stigma associated with depression here in Anguilla, and many individuals fail to seek professional help. There are numerous myths circulating in Anguilla – some resulting in people being misinformed about this common treatable disorder.
Common myths related to depression
It is not a medical disorder. One of the most common myths is that depression is not a medical disorder. This is false. Depression is a very real illness that affects a person’s emotional, social, behavioural and physical health. There are genetic and biological factors that predispose an individual to mental illness, but the person’s biography (life experiences) also influences its development. If you think you have depression, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you get the support you need to manage your condition.
Depression is just feeling sad. Depression is not just feeling sad when you lose someone, or are deeply disappointed. Everyone has these feelings from time to time. Depression does not just occur when something bad happens in your life. It can happen even when things seem fine. Symptoms usually last for weeks or months without treatment. Common symptoms of depression can include:
• Feeling sad or guilty often
• Eating or sleeping more or less
• Not enjoying things you normally like
• Feeling tired or irritable
• Having problems with concentration or decision-making
• Thinking about suicide
Depression only occurs in weak individuals. This is false. Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. It occurs in women and men, young people and children. It has nothing to do with being weak. Symptoms might vary depending on sex and age. Women are often more likely than men to experience classic depression symptoms such as feelings of sadness, worthlessness and guilt. Men who are depressed are more likely to be irritable or angry — and sometimes abusive. They are more likely to lose interest in their work or hobbies, but some throw themselves into their work to avoid dealing with depression. Men are more likely than women to have difficulty sleeping. They are also more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol when they are depressed
Depression will go away on its own. False: A serious mental illness cannot be willed away or brushed aside with a change in attitude. Ignoring the problem does not cause it to go away. Depression is a treatable illness, with a success rate of over 90% for those who seek intervention.
You can just snap out of depression. This is false. Depression is a serious disease, just like diabetes or heart disease. Many people with a depressive illness in Anguilla never seek treatment. Most individuals with depression, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment.
You only get depression if your parents have it. This is false. Adults and children who have a depressed parent are not more likely to experience depression than those who do not. Please note that depression can happen to anyone and with treatment most people can manage depression, regardless of their family history.
Depression only happens if something bad happens to you. False. Depression may start after something bad happens, but other things also may trigger it. Medicines, hormone problems, childbirth, and using alcohol and drugs can all trigger depression. We are not sure about all the triggers for depression. Sometimes it happens for no obvious reason.
Once you are diagnosed with depression you are on treatment for life. This is not correct. Many people believe that therapy for depression usually goes on for years — or never ends. In fact, for most people, therapy is not open-ended. For example, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can take from six weeks to six months. Most therapy typically ends because the person wants to move on or has resolved the issues that brought him or her to therapy. Some people with depression choose to continue seeing a therapist on an ongoing basis.
The best way to help someone with depression is to cheer him/her up. The best way to help a depressed person is to help him/her get diagnosed and treated. It is also important to listen to the person and take what he/she says seriously. Always take seriously any mention of suicidal thoughts or intent. If someone is having suicidal thoughts make sure he/she obtains professional help as soon as possible. Just trying to cheer up someone who is depressed may make him/her feel misunderstood. It is important that you give support and offer him/her hope that the depression will get better with treatment and time.
Depression is a common disorder in Anguilla. New technology and new research show that depression is a disease, just like asthma or diabetes. It is a disorder that can be successfully treated and the individual can go on to have a productive life for many years to come. Like most mental health illnesses, there is much stigma associated with depression – some of which prevents individuals from seeking professional help. If you or you love one have symptoms suggestive of depression have a talk with your healthcare provider. Remember the theme for this World Health Day: “Depression: Let’s talk”.
Ask Your Doctor is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. The reader should consult his or her physician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field are ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.
Dr Brett Hodge MB BS DGO MRCOG, is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and Family Doctor who has over thirty-two years in clinical practice. Dr Hodge has a medical practice in The Johnson Building in The Valley (Tel: 264 4975828).