Skyline University Nigeria

Depression: A silent killer?

Depression affects how you feel, think and behave and could lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had said in one of its reports that over 300 million people across the world suffer from depression.

It said depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

More women are affected by depression than men.

Depression could also lead to suicide. About 800, 000 people die from suicide every year.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 15-29-year worldwide.

The World Bank said in its February 2018 report that 22 per cent Nigerians experience chronic depression.

The report discovered a strong correlation between chronic depression and labour market outcomes in the country.

All depression types are not the same. But it is important one knows the various types that exist and symptoms in order seek treatment for such.

Various forms of depression:

  • Major Depression: A constant sense of hopelessness and despair is a sign of major depression, also known as clinical depression. Major depression is associated with inability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. Some people have clinical depression only once in their life, while others have it several times in a lifetime. It can sometimes occur from one generation to the next in families. It may also affect people with no family history of the illness.
  • Chronic Depression: Chronic depression or dysthymia is a milder form of depression that affects millions. Dysthymia is less severe and has fewer symptoms than major depression. With dysthymia, the depression symptoms can linger for a long period of time, often two years or longer. Those who suffer from dysthymia can also experience periods of major depression- sometimes called “double depression.”
  • Atypical Depression: Atypical depression is a subtype of major depression or dysthymic disorder that involves several specific symptoms, including increased appetite or weight gain, sleepiness or excessive sleep, marked fatigue or weakness. These are moods that are strongly reactive to environmental circumstances, and feeling extremely sensitive to rejection. Atypical depression can be a “specifier” for either major depression or dysthymic disorder. People with atypical depression have often experienced depression first at an early age, during their teenage years.
  • Postpartum Depression (PPD): This is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen in a woman after giving birth. PPD is a form of major depression that has its onset within four weeks after delivery. The diagnosis of postpartum depression is based not only on the length of time between delivery and onset, but also on the severity of the depression. It is linked to chemical, social, and psychological changes associated with having a baby.

Other forms of depression are Bipolar Depression (Manic), Seasonal Depression (SAD), Psychotic Depression and Treatment-Resistant Depression.

Who is at the risk of depression?

A mental health expert, Pius Okoroafor, who spoke on the matter, urged patients to watch out for early symptoms of depression and move swiftly to tackle such before the situation deteriorates.

He said: “Knowing what is capable of raising your odds of depression may help you get the best medical care when you need it.

“There are several medical conditions that may lead to depression, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies and female hormonal changes. Also depression could occur as a side effect to drug usage. In most cases, if doctors cannot find any genuine cause of depression in a patient, such person may be referred to a mental health professional such as psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor for help.”

Early warning signs:

According to Okoroafor, the symptoms that easily manifest during the discovery period are difficulties in concentration, remembering of details, and decision making.

Others are fatigue, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness, pessimism and hopelessness.

“Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much. Irritability, restlessness and loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable, including sex, are possible indications of onset of depression,” he added.

High profile victims of depression:

Historically, there have been several high profile victims of depression.

In November 2009, ex-German international, Robert Enke, committed suicide over fear that his adopted daughter would be taken away from him.

Johnny Depp, a famous actor, was another classical example of high profile victim of depression. His anxiety was a major source of depression and unease, so much so that he had access to therapists even on film set.

Depression is no respecter of age, gender, status and race, a teacher at the department of Psychology, University of Ibadan, Dr. Femi Olubunmi, said.

“It is a condition that defies the logic if you ask me. The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterises depression can lead to a range of behavioural and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behaviour or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide,” he added.

Management of depression:

Medication and talk therapy are widely believed to be the most effective approach to treatment of patients.

“Yes, they are both very effective. But, specifically, a combination of talk therapy and drugs worked best for treatment of depression and anxiety. Drugs had a quicker impact on symptoms than talk therapy, but it often took trial and error to find a drug that worked without undesirable side effects.

“ People often ask, is psychotherapy more effective than medication? Over the years, we have discovered that psychotherapy even works better in the long-term and is more enduring than medication. But while therapy is getting sharper and more effective, it is continuing to lose market share to medication. So it is still a two-way approach to tackling depression and they have proved to be very effective and enduring,” the psychologist stated.