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' BY KIM ARENDSE ?,c5 fl (-= Depression can be a crippling condition — but with the right treatment, the cloud can lift. 1 T CREPT up on her slowly. She began feeling more and more sad with each passing day. Over time it got to the point where it would take Megan Doty (45) of Fairland, Johannesburg, a weekend to do chores that should take a morning. Her house was a mess, mail went unopened and she'd stopped eating properly or taking care of herself. It was a stressful time - she'd ended her marriage, was a single mom of two and her son had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When her symptoms persisted - anger, sadness, feelings of loneliness, headaches, anxiety, lack of appetite and loss of concentration - she sought a psychologist's help, and was diagnosed with depression. Megan joined a support group and was prescribed antidepressants. In time, and with the help of her therapist, she began to turn her life around. "Part of my journey was to begin taking care of myself,"Megan says."' changed my diet, started exercising, spent more time with my kids, kept a journal of how I felt and meditated." Today she's a different person to who she was when her depression was most severe. "1 take my medication every day, I see a psychiatrist every three months and make sure I eat properly and stay healthy." Megan has even started a free support group in her area."Those suffering with depression shouldn't give up. Seek help and work with your doctor to get better." Cassey Chambers, operations director at The South African Depression and Anxiety 46 mine! Group (Sadag), says the number of calls the organisation receives from people who feel depressed is on the rise. "As awareness about depression grows, more people feel comfortable about coming forward to seek treatment,"Cassey says. "This wasn't the case 20 years ago when mental illness was seen as a weakness. "It can also be because people have more problems today than before - there's an increase in unemployment, poverty and chronic illness.There are also more divorces and the breakdown of families is predominant. All these factors can cause or increase the prevalence of depression." This condition isn't something people have to suffer with all their lives. "No one chooses to have depression,"Cassey says."There's hope - and there's help. It's important to reach out and get the helps' Symptoms of depression feeling sad or anxious most of the time feelings of hopelessness or guilt loss of interest in activities trouble sleeping or sleeping too much weight fluctuations feeling tired and lethargic memory loss and lack of concentration suicidal thoughts persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, or stomach or chest pain Causes - mainly amongst women Genetics Women are at more risk if someone in their family had depression. Chemical imbalance in the parts of the brain that manage mood, thoughts, sleep, appetite and behaviour. Hormones This includes hormonal changes that occur during menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause. Stress Trauma, an increase in responsibilities or illness can contribute to depression. Linked disorders Many women who have depression also: experience anxiety have eating disorders abuse drugs or alcohol A stigmatised condition "People often don't seek treatment for fear of discrimination,"Cassey says. "But having a mental illness is like living with diabetes or cancer - it's a real illness that needs real treatment. Nobody would ever say, 'Snap out of it, it's just diabetes!" If you recognise these symptoms, it's vital you consult a GP or psychologist as some illnesses, such as thyroid disorder, or even certain medication can cause the same symptoms as depression. Treatment cognitive behavioural therapy (talk therapy) antidepressants combination of therapy and medication Lifestyle changes such as eating healthily and having an active social life can help to ease symptoms of depression. 0 Where to set he If you think you're depressed or someone you know has the condition or is suicidal, contact Sadag on 0800212-223 for free telephonic counselling.