Depression, also known as clinical depression is a mood disorder which is very common, and also very serious. It can be identified by a deep feeling of sadness, difficulty in thinking and concentration, suicidal tendencies, low self esteem, loss of interests in normally enjoyable activities, low energy, pain, hopelessness, low sex drive, insomnia, or increment/reduction in appetite. Although depression is a very common disorder, it has to be persistent for at least two weeks before patients can be diagnosed with it. Before now, not a lot of Nigerians take depression seriously, while others only thought of it as a myth or worse, a white man’s sickness. But with numerous cases of suicide in the country, a lot of awareness have been created by the government and some other organizations. According to WHO, 322,000,000 people in the world suffer from depression, and according to its suicide ranking, Nigeria has 15.1 suicides to 100,000 population per year, making use the 30th among the most suicide prone countries in the world .
Despite all of these awareness, not every Nigerian know the types and causes of depression or how to seek medical help, neither do a lot of people know how to carter to relatives suffering from depression. Therefore, I’ll be highlighting the various types of depression below
• Psychotic depression: This is a very severe case of depression that involves hallucinations and delusions e.g delusion of poverty or illnesses.
• Dysthymia: This is also known as persistent depressive disorder. Just as the name goes, it is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. Persons affected by this form of depression may have periods of major depression with severe symptoms, alongside periods with less symptoms, but must be ongoing for at least the period of two years before it can be characterized as persistent depressive disorder.
• Perinatal depression (postpartum depression): This is a form depression that affects many women before pregnancy or/and after giving birth. It is characterized by feelings of anxiety, sadness and tiredness.
• Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD): This is a mental disorder found in adolescents and children which is marked by irritable or angry moods and frequent outbursts.
• Anxiety disorder: It is characterized by feelings of fear and anxiety, anxiety about future events and fear for current happenings. These feelings may lead to physical symptoms like shakiness and fast heart rate. Types of anxiety disorder includes generalized anxiety, panic disorder, specific phobia, social anxiety.
• Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): This is a very common disorder in women, with more than 1.5 million cases per year. It has severe depression symptoms, irritability and tension before menstruation. It is more severe than those seen in premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS is a wide range of physical or emotional symptoms that occurs mostly 5 to 7 days before a woman starts her monthly menstrual cycle. Although the causes of PMS and PMDD are not known, chances are hormonal changes in women may play a role.
• Seasonal affective disorder: This is a form of disorder that involves cases of depression that occur during periods with less sunlight like winter, but lifts during summer and spring. It is characterized by more sleep and weight gain.
The causes of depression are complicated as one cannot entirely trace it to a source, although it may occur for various reasons, which may be because of a serious medical illness or life changes like the death of a loved one, or simply a family history of depression. Other reasons include drug abuse (drugs like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, codeine, morphine, and the acne drug isotretinion), major events (like starting a new job), disputes with family members or friends, domestic violence, relationship issues, forms of abuse like emotion or physical abuse, or personal problems like social isolation and chronic pain. Also, some sedatives such as sleeping pills and high blood pressure medications may also lead to depression.
Depression may be treated with either psychotherapy or medication or both. The medications that can be used are called antidepressants, they help alter mood by affecting brain chemicals. Because there are different categories of antidepressants, and the biochemistry and mode of function of each antidepressant differs from one another, it is best prescribed by a doctor. Psychotherapy on the other hand, also known as talk therapy, helps with cases of depression. There are also different types of psychotherapies which include cognitive-behavioral therapy (this helps change negative thought pattern) and interpersonal therapy. Studies have shown that talk therapy combined with medications give the best results for severe depression.
Of course, knowing about depression wouldn’t be useful if we don’t use or share the knowledge. It is very necessary for us to be mindful of our loved ones, so that we can help them when we see signs of depression in them, as I have listed above. Once we see these signs, it is very important to encourage them to see the doctor, and to do that in the most caring and sensitive way. Also, let them know you are willing and ready to help through their therapy or medication. It is very important to be careful what we say to them so as to not make them feel bad, or even blame them for the depression, neither should you tell them ‘its all in their head’. Victims of depression need a lot of care, support and encouragement, please endeavor to help your loved ones in whichever way you can once you know they have depression.
In case you need more help, you can contact @MentallyAwareNG on twitter for professional help. Also, if you have other depression help lines for anywhere in Nigeria, please drop it in the comment section below, thank you.