“ I never knew that a list of signs and symptoms on a sheet of paper would be able to tell me exactly what I was feeling all my life – I was able to relate to all the symptoms of depression. I have finally found the answer to all the questions I have had for such a long time” – Mark, 20 year old sufferer*
Depression is a serious medical condition. In contrast to the normal emotional experience of sadness, loss or passing mood states, clinical depression can interfere significantly with a person’s ability to function. It is a bodily illness and can effect every aspect of your life. Depression can be devastating to family relationships, friendships and the ability to work or go to school.
Symptoms of depression include a persistently sad mood, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, change in appetite or weight, oversleeping or difficulty sleeping, energy loss, difficulty thinking or concentrating, feelings of guilt or worthlessness and recurrent thoughts of suicide. In order to receive a diagnosis of clinical depression, one needs to experience these symptoms for a least two weeks.
People like Mark may have been suffering for a long time without realising that they have depression. This invisible disease is not known to many, however it effects one in every ten South Africans. In the year 2010, the World Bank has predicted that it will be the leading cause of death in the world.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group speak to many people like Mark. The Support Group offers a telephone counselling and referral service to individuals suffering from mood and anxiety disorders. They can be contacted Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on 011 783 1474.
Many people still believe that the emotional symptoms caused by depression are “not real”, and that a person should be able to shake off the symptoms. Because of these inaccurate beliefs, people with depression either may not recognise that they have a treatable disorder or may be discouraged from seeking staying on treatment due to feelings of shame and stigma. Too often, untreated or inadequately treated depression is associated with suicide.
The important message is that depression can be treated
Antidepressant medications are widely used, effective treatments for depression. At the same time, certain types of psychotherapy, specifically cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) have been found helpful for depression. Research indicates that mild to moderate depression often can be treated successfully with either treatment alone; however, severe depression appears more likely to respond to a combination of psychotherapy and medication. More than 80% of people with depressive disorders improve when they receive appropriate treatment.