Could you be depressed?

Posted on 27 November 2012

Depression happens to people from all walks of life and is believed to affect one out of seven South Africans – but take heart, it is very treatable. Dr Chris van den Berg, a psychiatrist at Mediclinic Stellenbosch, tells us more.

I have been feeling like life is a little too much and struggling to see the silver lining lately. Am I just feeling down or am I depressed?
We all get sad at times. It’s normal to experience a degree of mood ups and downs as things happen in life. And you don’t want to be bland in your feelings – experiencing emotion is very important.  However, should you be experiencing mood changes that are too high or too low and which are causing upset in your life, you might want to seek expert help.

Are there specific symptoms for depression?
Depression has many faces and its symptoms don’t always look the same… It can, for example, present as irritability (especially in males and teenagers) rather than sadness and tearfulness. But a depressed person generally feels sad or down every day, most of the day and finds very little pleasure in life any more. If this goes on for longer than two weeks, it is more than a passing mood.

What other symptoms could I have?
• Appetite or weight changes
• Sleeping too much or not sleeping well
• Loss of energy, tiredness and inability to concentrate
• Indecisiveness
• Feeling agitated or slowed down
• Feelings of worthlessness and inappropriate guilt
• Thinking of death or suicidal plans

When should I see a doctor?
Here’s the silver lining: depression is one of the most treatable of mental illnesses. The trick is to seek help and not pretend you are fine or that it’s just a phase. When it causes dysfunction or distress, you should definitely seek help.

What can be done about depression?
For mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy is the first line of treatment and is as effective as medication. However, for more severe depression, you may need medication as well as psychotherapy.  These days there are more antidepressants available and treatment can be individualised for your symptoms. Check with your medical aid if you qualify for benefits.

Why am I depressed?
There are various causes for depression, from genetic (you might be more susceptible if it runs in the family) to illness, childbirth, stress or biochemical reactions. Whatever the cause, take heart, you can do something about it.

Hot tip for helping yourself: Don’t underestimate the value of a healthy diet and exercise in keeping depression at bay.

If you have questions on this post, or any other medical matter, please comment below or click on the Facebook link on the right.

Published in Healthy Life

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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