- Persistent sad mood is a classical sign of depression
- The same should last for at least 2 weeks for diagnosis of depression
- Seeking timeley professional help is important for depression treatment
Many of us feel sad, lonely and depressed at times. It can be because of poor self-esteem or a normal reaction to loss. But, when the feelings become overwhelming, it may cause physical symptoms and may last for longer periods of time. So much so, that it may keep you from leading a normal, active life. Psychiatrist Dr Sanjay Chugh says that it is very important to understand depression as a mental illness and not something that a person has drawn upon himself/herself, and has some control over voluntarily.
"One of the classic symptoms of depression and its manifestations are a low or sad mood. Technically, the sadness must be persistent for at least two weeks, before we can diagnose someone for depression. This is coupled with anhedonia, which refers to lack of pleasure or interest. These are cardinal symptoms of depression," Dr Chugh tells DoctorNDTV.
Warning signs of depression
- Loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss.
- Increase in appetite and weight gain.
- Decreased sleep or insomnia or hypersomnia or increased sleep. "In case of clinical depression, a classic sign is early awakening, where a person goes to sleep at a normal time, but starts waking up regularly at least two hours earlier than his/her usual waking up time," Dr Chugh explains.
- Decrease in sexual functioning and desire or libido.
- Decrease in concentration and focus.
Cognitive triad of depression: Helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness
As depression progresses, there are three things which occur. These are known as cognitive triad of depression. "It makes a person feel hopeless. He looks into the future and finds it extremely dark and bleak, as dark as the present. S/he loses all hope that things will get any better," he says.
Also, the person begins to compare himself/herself with people around and feels inferior. "This process is known as feelings of worthlessness or inferiority," Dr Chugh says.
The person also feels trapped, completely helpless and unable to come out of the situation. "This triad of hopelessness, worthlessness and helplessness is characteristic of depression. When these symptoms appear, the next thought which hits a depression patient is that this life is not worth living."
Depression can kill
For someone who is not too old and has a good physical health is not going to die because of natural causes. But, because he is fed up of his life and finds that there is no hope for the world to get better. "S/he begins to harbour thoughts of harming himself/herself. This is known as suicidal ideation," Dr Chugh informs.
He goes on to add that most people (95% of them) who contemplate suicide and attempt it, have an underlying psychiatric problem, and depression is the most common of them. "If a person experiences any of these symptoms or have a someone in friends or family who experiences similar thoughts, it should be taken as an immediate warning sign to take professional help," he suggests.
So whenever someone around you says that s/he is fed up of life and don't want to live, it should be taken as a cry for help. There is very little that a friend or a family member can do. It is unfair to expect family and friends to treat depression, which is essentially a medical condition, just like a heart attack. "If you delay it or refuse to recognise it and go into denial mode, you do it at your own peril. The risks, as we have seen so many times around us, are a regret of things that you have live with for the rest of your life," Dr Chugh explains further.
Untreated depression can get worse and may last for months or years. Recognising these symptoms early on is the key to treating it.
(Dr Sanjay Chugh is Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Dr. Chugh's Neuropsychiatry Clinic, New Delhi)
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