Mental health refers to the behavioral and emotional well-being and relates to how we think, feel and behave. Mental illness can affect our physical health, educational outcome, productivity at work, development of positive relationships and promote the crime rate and alcohol or drug abuse. This is a highly pervasive problem, as more than 450 million people suffer from mental disorders, and according to the World Health Organisation, depression will be the second-most widespread disease in the world by 2020.
Depression is the most common mood disorder, and is described as an overwhelming feeling of sadness, isolation and despair which affects the way that the person thinks, feels, and functions. A person suffering from depression remains in a low mood for at least a period of two weeks, and has feelings of hopelessness and pessimism. They also exhibit a loss of interest in any hobbies, activities they once enjoyed, and may also withdraw from their friends and family. It can affect people regardless age, race, and class, and can occur without being provoked by trauma.
Depression can often go undetected as it is often blown off as feeling blue, or feeling down. However, it has symptoms that distinguish from temporary sadness. Patients may experience irritability, restlessness, hopelessness, an inability to focus, insomnia, hypersomnia, a change in appetite, drastic change in weight, a lack of energy, unexplained crying spells, thoughts of death or suicide and feeling worthless or guilt. The exact cause of depression is still unexplainable, but scientists believe that an imbalance in brains signaling chemicals maybe responsible for the condition. Depression is mainly caused by a combination of genetics, biological, environmental, psychological and social factors. This means that based on these factors, there is a set of people that is more prone to having depression. It is usually triggered after harrowing life experiences such as divorce, work issues, financial problems, childhood trauma, abuse of recreational drugs, a past head injury, and so on. Further, having one episode of major depression increases the risk of having a subsequent one.
Clinical depression, is also known as Major Depressive Disorder, and is one of several mood disorders. The most damaging mood disorder is perhaps bipolar disorder, which is categorized under abnormally elevated mood known as mania. Its emotional and physical symptoms are insomnia, unexplained aches, anxiety, low self-esteem, indecision and disorganization. Postpartum depression is the mood disorder experienced by mothers after childbirth, due to hormonal shifts that can affect a woman’s mood. It can cause confusion, hallucination and delusions. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is faced by menstruating women, and its symptoms are anxiety, irritability, moodiness, bloating, food cravings, and soreness. Not only does depression impede day to day functioning, it also triggers medical conditions like under-active thyroid gland, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and general weakness.
Since it is a medical condition, while the support of family does help, patients must undergo the necessary treatment of therapy and medication, if required. This can include cognitive- behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and problem solving therapy. It is essential to realize that mental health is complex. If someone is not diagnosed with disorders as severe as schizophrenia, it does not mean that their mental health is flourishing. Depression is more common and acute than one would assume, and the negative stigma surrounding it makes it more onerous for patients to get help. They feel uncomfortable discussing it, and often even deny having it for fear of ridicule. Moreover, this lack of open dialogue also keeps people ignorant, who are then unable to comfort their loved ones if the latter every goes through this experience. Therefore, it is clearly in everyone’s best interests if we try to break the negative stigma around depression, and give mental health the due attention and importance that it deserves.
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