Yes, I will label it an enemy. It starts off small, feelings of being blue, and gradually turns into something that affects your entire life. It affects choices, perspective, can cause physical pain, moods, and your ability to live life like your seemingly carefree friends.
But, understanding the enemy is half the battle won, so in this post we will discuss a little more about what depression really is and why it affects us the way it does.
First, it is important to know that there are different types of depression. Types like Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can be affected by simply using light as treatment because it’s caused by too little sunlight during the summer months. Then we have Bi-Polar Depression, which is a manic-depressive illness that needs more intense treatment because of the cycling mood changes. There are up to four different types of Bi-Polar Depression as well, so this will not be the focus of today’s entry. Depression can also be caused by factors as multi-faceted as substance abuse, or as common as Post-Partum depression. (common by no means denotes that it is any less severe than any other type of depression!)
Today, however, we will focus on Comorbidity, where there is at least one other unrelated illness (like anxiety or ADD), Dysthemia, Persistent Depressive Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder.
Comorbid depression is, as mentioned, when there is at least one other illness that links to but is unrelated to the depression itself. Often it will be anxiety, ADD, or substance abuse. Although this is a serious type of depression, mild treatment and a short stay at a facility such as St Joseph’s in Durban (linked to Entabeni Hospital, and the Life Group Hospitals) will often be successful if taken under the watchful eye of a psychologist and psychiatrist.
Dysthemia is somewhere in between feeling a bit blue, and having full on Major Depressive Disorder. It usually lasts about two years or longer for it to be diagnosed as dysthemic depression, but is easily identifyable – think of Eyore in the popular kids’ series Winnie the Pooh. You are able to do things with your friends, but nothing ever seems as bright or as fun as it does to them. Your energy levels are low, you sleep A LOT, it may affect your appetite, it causes back, neck, and/or chest pain, and if left untreated, may turn into Major Depressive Disorder.
Major Depression, also known as Unipolar Depression or Major depressive disorder. shows its face in many ways. It is the easiest to spot in others, and has the following symptoms;
- Feelings of emptiness (like an empty tin, or a hollowed out shell)
- Moodiness or irritability,
- Feelings of guilt
- Thoughts of suicide
- Low energy levels, no enthusiasm for anything
- Binge-eating or not eating at all,
- Loss of interest in things that you previously enjoyed,
- Loss of libido
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions,
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
The above list is not exhaustive, but will give a good indication that it is time to seek out help and make some real lifestyle changes. It is recommended that you seek the help of someone qualified enough to diagnose and prescribe medication to help you cope, and perhaps a support group in your area who can help you keep to the changes you need to make in your life. In the beginning, it may feel like things are the same or even getting worse before it gets any better, so many people give up on the process before it’s actually effective – be careful to ‘stick to it’ no matter how it feels. For most people, even with treatment, it can take six months to a year to get out of this rut.
Many people cannot afford to seek out professional help, but there are avenues of getting the help you need through other channels as well. I know the organisation Focus on the Family offers treatment by professionals at a fraction of the standard price, and has a group of practicing psychologists and psychiatrists who assist them when someone cannot access help on their own. Local churches many times have counselors who can offer assistance in a basic way, and support groups are an invaluable source of help, motivation, and support for anyone suffering with the above. If you are in the Durban area, I would like to invite you to come to our support group meetings on the first Wednesday of every month at 171 Bulwer Road in Glenwood – please see our website for more details.