Is it Depression?

Depression is among the most common of mental illnesses, and it comes with all the ambiguities that accompany a psychiatric ailment.

All of us are depressed at some point in our lives, but how is it different from being an ailment? How can we be sure if the blues we are suffering from is not a category of depression called, unipolar depression, manic depression or dysthymia?

People find themselves to be alone in the madding crowds of the cities, they are overworked and not loved enough, they cannot catch up with the fast pace of the materialistic world they exist in, and so the blues are more frequent and common now than ever before. This does not mean that thousands of people who are struggling to meet deadlines, or trying make ends meet in crowded cities are all patients of depression. Death is the most grave of all sufferings, and people may spend months and years trying to come out of the loss of a dear one, but that cannot be called a symptom of the disease.

Victims of depression are constantly unhappy; they look lost and lack the zest for life. They are largely pessimistic, and are devoid of a sense of purpose. They are often shrouded in the feeling of being useless and out of place, and sometimes found obsessing with the feeling of remorse. Now they find everything that once formed a part of their happiness, to be unnecessary and worthless. They exist on the fringes of the society, and do not involve in anything enjoyable including sex. The sleeping and eating patterns are affected in case of a patient of depression. It is hap-hazard and unhealthy. People may suffer from insomnia or oversleep during odd hours. People may either starve themselves or on the other hand overeat, and gain a large amount of weight. As alertness and energy is always symbolic of good health, these patients tire quickly and often complain of fatigue. They are slow and sluggish, agitated and touchy. They cannot use their brain the way they used to, and memory and concentration etc. suffers, which could even be the result of an irregular sleep pattern. On the other hand, physical ailments like stomach aches resulting from digestive problems, or headaches can also affect the patient.

Depression is not like the common cold that stays for a week and leaves, it is a serious ailment, as it disrupts your daily life. It can be persistent, and sometimes takes a long time to be identified in the patient. They sometimes mull a lot over death and can have suicidal tendencies. Suicides are not uncommon. Depression is attributed to the chemical changes in the brain, but the reasons can be manifold, like a failed long term relationship, divorce of parents, or such other domestic problems including death of a loved one. Drugs, alcohol, medicines etc. are also found to induce the disease.

Women suffer from mood swings owing to physiological changes due to premenstrual syndrome, postpartum, menopause or even birth control pills. They are twice as prone as men to the ailment. Unpredictable behavior and withdrawal attributed to adolescents though cannot be diagnosed as clinical depression; in many cases patients start showing signs of the actual ailment in their teens, or even in childhood. Depression in children is very difficult to be diagnosed.

In men the effect of depression can be devastating as they tend to deny the disease. The manifestation of the ailment in men can be different, and often physical, like anger or fatigue. Sexual dysfunctions connected with it further exasperate them. Men are ashamed, and are therefore less likely to show obvious signs of depression like crying, and they avoid verbally expressing themselves too. There is drug and alcohol abuse, and sometimes suicides in the case of men who refuse to accept grief.

The symptoms of depression need not be similar in all the patients. Symptoms may vary based on the severity, social circumstances, family medical history, habits, care provided etc. The ailment has to persist for two weeks at least to be even considered as depression. The disease affects not only the mind and mood, but body as well. You cease to be happy as your personal and professional life is affected and you cannot feel better despite making a conscious effort.