Living in a dark world

Dr Anjana Kannankara

The world that we live in is fast changing where life is not relaxed anymore. Work pressure, stress, anxiety and mood swings have become a part of our life without intention. To deal with competition we have become mechanical, running after deadlines, projects and prestigious courses to ensure a secure future. People of all age groups are put through such circumstances where there is no escape from anxiety, stress or pressure in day to day life. And the after-effect is frightening – depression!

What is clinical depression
We need to understand what depression as a disorder means. Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how one feels, the way one thinks and how one acts causing significant impairment in daily life. Depression drains one’s energy, hope and drive, making it difficult to take the steps which will help him feel better. But while overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s not impossible. The key is to understand that you do have more control than you realise, even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent.
Primary causes
The exact reasons as to what cause depression are still unknown. A number of aspects are often linked to its development. Depression usually results from a combination of recent events and other longer-term or personal factors, rather than one immediate issue or event that might act as a trigger.
It is said that the imbalance of brain chemicals like seratonin and dopamine could play a vital role in causing this condition. We have seen that genetic factors are important in many cases of depression. Depression seems to run in families (as do other mood disorders), and about 30 per cent of the predisposition for depression is due to genetic influences.
Stressful or unpleasant life events play a part in the onset or relapse of depression. Vulnerable people or people with weak willpower are more prone to be affected.
Another possible cause of depression that should not be overlooked is physical illness or medications. Glandular fever, influenza, hepatitis, thyroid hormones, anaemia, diabetes, birth control pills, alcohol and other substances of abuse, or other medications such as those for heart or blood pressure conditions, may all cause symptoms of depression.
How to deal with it
The first and foremost step is the acceptance of the condition that can harm your life. It is not a fault, depression is an illness just like any other disease for which treatment and recovery are possible if timely help is taken. To be reasonable with the person who is going through depression and not compare his performance before being depressed and after is an important point. The person deserves to be appreciated for mustering the courage to do even small things each day. It is like learning to walk after a serious accident. What needs to be understood is that it is just a passing phase and life can offer many beautiful things even while you feel depressed as well as later.
Dealing with depression requires action but taking action when you’re depressed can be really hard. Sometimes, even thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like exercising or spending time with friends, can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action.
Of course taking the first step is always the hardest. What can help the most are the things which are most difficult to do, but it is not impossible. You may not have much energy but by drawing on all your reserves, you will surely have enough to listen to a good song, take a stroll in the garden or have a nice chat with your friend or parent. By taking small but positive steps each day, you’ll soon lift the heavy fog of depression and find yourself feeling happier, healthier and more hopeful again.
For parents to know
Depression is very common today. One in three persons will experience a major depressive episode at some stage in his or her life. While most cases of depression are mild, about one person in 10 will have a moderate or severe episode.
The thumb rule is to be with the child throughout with unconditional support – nothing, not your job or financial situation, matters more than your child’s life! Patience and understanding from parents and family are most required for the individual to get out of the condition. Blaming or ignoring the person would turn out to be cruel in their depressed state where they find themselves inefficient to even go through daily routine. Family support is detrimental since for them each day is a struggle for survival.
For students’ knowledge
Strengthen your will power which cannot be broken down at any cost. A person’s personality and characteristics are an important factor. When people are depressed, they have a very negative view of themselves and the world. They do not appreciate good things and bad things seem overwhelming.
Internet is not a doctor. The access to internet provides too many incorrect and unwanted knowledge to children leading them to believe they have depression and start behaving in that manner unknowingly, which makes it tough even to extend help.
Never blame yourself, just look around to see how your family loves you. Accept that you require help, communicate to your dear ones and cooperate sincerely to move towards the path of recovery. Any delay in getting help will only deprive you and your loved ones from enjoying some valuable truly happy times with each other.
Life is too precious to waste. No one leads a perfect life. But the determination to overcome the obstacles and struggles is what makes the difference. To embrace life as a fighter is way better than succumbing to trivial matters.
Think positively. While unpleasant thoughts keep tormenting the mind, one can try to see the same events through a different positive perspective. Problem solving, where you think about how you can find peace in a situation can also be tried. Being engaged in physical activities can be of major help though you feel lethargic. Make sure that you do not isolate yourself from your dear ones though you may not want to interact while depressed.
Treatment and recovery
One of the major issues that we face today is that of the professionals having very less time to dedicate to each patient. Medicines are often prescribed in a hurry many a time without evaluating the pros and cons of a particular case carefully.
It is advisable to identify the first signs of depression and provide support required right from the initial stages. Psychological counselling could also be taken during mild to moderate stages. There are many therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Interpersonal therapy which might be helpful in some cases. The mental state of the person requires to be assessed in order to determine whether medicines need to be administered. If so, a consultation with psychiatrist would be essential. But it is important to find the right kind of medical professional and the right kind of treatment that works for you for fast recovery. Each person is different and the same style of treatment might not work for all. Dedicated support, affection, care and understanding are crucial for patients during this stage.
Alternate aids
It is said chocolate can boost the mood of depressed people though it is not scientifically proven. Frangrances of lavender, chamomile are also said to create pleasant feeling. Natural herbs like ashwagandha, bhahmi, jadamanchi help in overall wellness if taken under supervision. Meditation, positive energy manifestation are also likely to boost the self confidence of the person by driving away negative thoughts. Music therapy by listening to certain frequencies of sounds have also been found effective in some in relieving the pain of past events.
(The author is Director,
TGL Foundation)
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