How to recognise depression
MBABANE - Depression is a very common yet highly treatable medical illness that can affect anyone from any age group.
It is a medical disorder just like diabetes and high blood pressure but it affects thoughts, feelings, physical health and behavior. Depression is not a character flaw and nor is it a sign of personal weakness. It is a treatable medical illness and most people with it can begin to feel better in several weeks if they receive adequate treatment.
According to Dr Violet Mwanjali, a Psychiatrist at the Manzini Mental Health Clinic, there are many cases of depression in Swaziland but the country lacks the statistics to show its prevalence. She also said that more than 50 per cent of depression sufferers are misdiagnosed because the symptoms are evasive; for example patients may complain of headaches, backaches and other minor ailments.
Depression needs to be taken seriously because of the high rate of suicides associated with it.
Many people are not aware of the many types of depression besides what is termed ‘unipolar depression’ (as opposed to bipolar depression) where the sufferer feels melancholic and never feels any highs. Dr Mwanjali said that childhood depression was common but not as prevalent as adult depression.
"I have treated a few children and early detection has been essential to recovery," she said.
A brief description of manic depression (bipolar disorder), major depression, atypical depression, psychotic depression and dysthymia are discussed below.
Major Depression: This is probably one of the most common forms of depression. People who suffer from this type of depression seem to walk around with the weight of the world on their shoulders. They appear disinterested in becoming involved in regular activities and seem convinced that they will always be in this hopeless state. There is a lack of interest in sexual activity and in appetite and significant weight loss. Dr Mwanjali said that since her arrival in Swaziland last December, major depression has been the most commonly diagnosed type of depression in the country.
Atypical Depression: This is a variation of depression that is slightly different from major depression. The sufferer is sometimes able to experience happiness and moments of elation. Symptoms of atypical depression include fatigue, oversleeping, overeating and weight gain. People who suffer from atypical depression believe that outside events - for example success, attention and praise - control their mood. Episodes of atypical depression can last for months or a sufferer may live with it forever.
Psychotic Depression: People who suffer from psychotic depression begin to hear and see imaginary things such as sounds, voices and visuals that do not exist. These are referred to as hallucinations, which are generally more common with someone suffering from schizophrenia. The sufferer of psychotic depression imagines frightening and negative sounds and images.
Dysthymia: People who suffer from this condition just walk around seeming depressed, sad, blue or melancholic. They appear to have been this way all of their lives. Dysthymia is a condition that people are not even aware of but just live with daily. They go through life feeling unimportant, dissatisfied, frightened and simply don’t enjoy their lives. Medication is beneficial for this type of depression and the recovery rate is very high.
Manic Depression: This condition can be defined as an emotional disorder characterized by changing mood shifts from depression to mania which can sometimes be quite rapid. People who suffer from manic depression have an extremely high rate of suicide.
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