Decoding Depression- Recognise The Symptoms

By Girish Banwari, Psychiatrist


Girish Banwari

March 12, 2019

For a while now, you have felt this great weight on your shoulders. You drag yourself out of bed every morning with great reluctance. You go through your daily chores as if they are just that: mundane chores to be done with. You don’t enjoy anything you do, nor do you feel motivated enough to try something new. Everything feels ‘too much’: your work, your commute, your family, friends even the things you once used to do with great enthusiasm.

At night, you find it hard to fall asleep, and when you do, it’s only to wake up a few hours later. Then you toss and turn for a long time, and fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning, which makes you dull and lethargic throughout the day. You no longer have much to contribute to conversations, and sometimes, with very little provocation, you have a strong urge to break down and weep. But of course, you won’t let it show. You try to hide it all by taking an extra effort to talk and be cheerful, neither of which lasts long enough. It feels as if a grey cloud has descended, darkening your life. And it refuses to lift.

If this sounds like your story, then you have a fair idea of what depression feels like.

“Everyone goes through periods of sadness, but those are usually in response to life events. ‘Blues’ brought on by a setback of some sort, like losing a job. Such sadness is transient, and you will be back to normal once the situation is under control.”

Clinical depression, however, is different. “It’s a prolonged state of melancholy, usually lasting more than two weeks. You feel a persistent, continued, pervasive sense of sadness, most of the days, most of the time. And you are unable to detach yourself from it. Fatigue, loss of sleep and appetite, lack of motivation/enjoyment and sudden weight loss can all indicate depression. Conversely, in some cases, there is a tendency to eat and sleep excessively, and gain weight.

People going through depression often have persistent feelings of excessive, inappropriate guilt, you feel that you’re not living up to the expectations of your family and friends that you’re somehow letting them (and yourself) down. And nothing can convince you otherwise.” Sometimes depression is somatized, manifesting itself as a physical symptom such as persistent headache with no identifiable cause.

The most alarming symptom of clinical depression, however, is a death wish. When a person feels that life has become so unbearable that death is preferable, or they are haunted by the thought that they don’t deserve to live, it is time to seek urgent professional help. Never take such feelings lightly or brush them aside. According to statistics, about two-thirds of all clinically depressed people contemplate suicide, and a staggering 10 to 15 percent commit suicide.

While most of us go to great lengths to ensure our physical wellness, we often ignore the warning signs that our minds send us. The stigma associated with mental illnesses is still very real to most of us, despite education and social awareness. Seeking professional help is seen as a weakness, and well-meaning people advise us to ‘snap out of it’ rather than approach a counselor.

Clinical depression, however, is not something that can be wished away. There are multiple factors that contribute to the condition which will be discussed soon, but one thing is clear: those who are going through it should be given the attention and support they require, and at the earliest.

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