The title surely reflects a question that you might find asking yourself when you feel sad for absolutely no reason. You may even find yourself following up on Google to check for symptoms, because why do we even need a psychologist when we have Google?

Well, before getting into it, let’s get a basic introduction starting with a question.

 

What is depression?

According to WHO, depression is characterised by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. Seems simple, but still depression often goes undiagnosed because these emotions are natural and are even healthy in normal circumstances, leading to people often ignoring these. Also, the unique variety of symptoms makes it almost impossible to identify it. This leads to another question.

 

How does one identify depression?

The simple answer to this: without professional help, you can’t. As I mentioned above, there are so many types of depressive disorders with their own unique symptoms that you can’t tell if you are depressed or not. For example, there is persistent depressive disorder which lasts for minimum of two years, and then there is seasonal depression which hits you like a cold when the season changes. There is a general definition that depression means sadness, but we throw around the word bipolar disorder if the same people immediately feel extremely happy and energetic. Also, medical conditions [e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumor (in rare cases) or vitamin deficiency] can mimic symptoms of depression.

 

So, the real question here is, ‘When to ask for help?’

When to ask for help is the biggest problem in cases of mental disorders, especially in the Indian society like ours where the root cause to all the problems and disorders is “poora din mobile per lage rehna” (using mobile phones all day long) and the universal solution is “subah jaldi toh uth kar dekho” (try waking up early). So, when do we seriously know when we need help and the condition is not going to go away itself? To simply put it, if any behavioral, emotional or physical condition disrupts your way of life or work, it needs attention from professionals. If you feel sad all the time and don’t feel like doing anything, this might be normal for a day or two but if it becomes constant and comes to a point when it starts affecting your work, relationships, or social circle, then you must ask for help before the condition deteriorates.

Although it is not possible to clearly identify but there are few signs to look out for:

  • Anxiety
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Sleepiness or sleeplessness
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Suicidal thoughts (seek professional help immediately)
  • Uncontrollable emotions

 

How do we prevent depression?

To understand that, we need to understand the causes of depression— which generally include trauma, genetics, abuse, serious illness, conflict, certain medication and more; many things you cannot control. In conclusion, you can’t really prevent depression but what you can do is lead a healthy lifestyle which I know is boring but important.

 

How is depression treated?

Well, if the truth be said, depression is not always a condition that is not completely curable. However, people can certainly do better with treatments. The first and hardest step in the direction of getting better is asking for help. Next in line comes professional treatment. A primary care doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist or a therapist. If someone has severe depression, they may need a hospital stay, or need to participate in an outpatient treatment program until their symptoms improve. Other treatments like light therapy also exist. People suffering from depression need love and compassion from people close to them when they feel lost as these things play an important role in healing.

 

How can you help someone who may be suffering from depression?

I heard this quote not so long ago, and I don’t know who said it, but it goes something like, “You can’t change what’s going on around you until you start changing what’s going on within you.” It’s completely true and makes you think how we don’t realize, before judging someone, that they maybe be fighting a struggle too. So maybe if you want to help someone around you, maybe a friend or a family member, start with love instead of judgment. Don’t come up with assumptions and don’t try to enforce them. People tend to underestimate depression as sadness, but it is so much hurtful than that. I had a friend say that “Why are people even depressed there is so much happiness in the world?” Seriously? It’s like saying “Why do people have asthma, there is so much oxygen in the world”. So, avoid doing what my friend did. If you genuinely want to help the person, start by listening to their problems and slowly try to make them aware that they might be in need of professional help.

Professional help is an important and essential step towards recovery. Please consider contacting any of the lines provided below if you are unable to find a specific clinical professional. If you are from a different country, we recommend dialling your respective mental health and related helpline.

KIRAN Mental Health Helpline (India) – 1800-599-0019

MoHFW Psychosocial Helpline (India) –  08046110007 (with dedicated line for frontline workers on option 5)

 

– Snigdha Chauhan, Amity International School, Noida

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