The Unknown Side of Depression – Euromeds AA’16

“UNKNOWN SIDE OF DEPRESSION”  Bartu Bektaş, Yeditepe University

It is an undeniable fact that the prevalence of psychological disorders increased remarkably over the last few decades (World Health Organisation, 2016). Depression is the most frequent psychological disorder encountered by clinical psychologists.

What do we know about depression?

The American Psychiatric Association defines it as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, how you act and the way you think. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home” (Parekh, 2015). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM IV) depression is divided in six subgroups. However, the most important one is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and it is usually referred to as depression. Previously, psychologists thought that depression was an illness that proceeded as episodes and full recovery was obtained during  the attack-free period. Today we know that if depression is not treated, it becomes chronic and as the number of attacks increases, the impact on the patient becomes more devastating. If depression remains untreated, it can lead to very severe consequences such as suicide. Although many illnesses are now under control due to advances in the field of medicine, prevalence of depression is rapidly increasing, especially in the industrialised western countries (Savrun, 1999). It is estimated that depression affects 350 million people all around the world and 800,000 people die because of depression-based suicide every year. Depression is a complex outcome of the interactions of social environment, socio-economic situation, gender, psychological factors and biological factors of the patient. People who face trauma or stressful events such as sexual or physical abuse are at risk of suffering from depression. Also, blood relatives of patients who suffer from depression are two times more at  risk of having depression when compared to others (Savrun, 1999).

Why should we worry?

Depression is usually observed in people around the age of forty. However, according to recent studies, the prevalence of depression is increased in all age groups and the average age at which it is seen has decreased (Savrun, 1999). This change can be remarkably observed  especially in people who were born after 1940. The reason for this is the change in sociocultural structure all around the world. Unfortunately, depression is not considered as a mental illness by the public and even by many healthcare professionals. But actually it is! It is one of the most frequently encountered mental illnesses. What is more, it can be life threatening if the patients do not receive professional help (Mayo Clinic, 2016). These patients try to minimise or ignore the symptoms because they do not want to get hospitalized for treatment. The reason for this is simple; they are not aware of the severity of the symptoms and how they will interfere with their daily lives. Treatment of depression involves use of antidepressant drugs or psychological treatments such as interpersonal psychotherapy. People still believe that these drugs damage the brain and have recreational effects (Savrun, 1999). Although these are not correct, people try to convince the patients to not use antidepressants. They   do not even allow patients to visit their doctor. This is because people are not aware of the seriousness of the situation and lack sufficient knowledge. Instead of discouraging the use of drugs as a treatment, families of the patients should encourage it without questioning the patient (Savrun, 1999).

       

If untreated…

The importance of the illness can be understood at a glance because of the consequences of untreated chronic depression. If people are aware of these, they can consult a doctor before the somatic symptoms of depression appear. This is because depression causes deterioration of any existing disease or even causes psychosomatic disorders (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Depression increases the tendency foralcohol and addictive substance use. Sometimes these people are diagnosed with alcohol addiction but not depression. Therefore, depression becomes chronic as it is untreated. There is a significant rise in the number of deaths due to depression based suicides. Depression damages the social life of the patient as well. These patients may end their marriages although their marriages are healthy. This is because they are trying to find someone to blame for their struggles. Therefore, they may blame their spouses or children. Depression can make patients angry (Mayo Clinic, 2016). This anger can be directed to other people or internalised. What is more, depression disrupts sleeping habits; either they want to stay in the bed all day or they reduce their sleeping time. Because of depression people may not be able to perform well at work and in the house. Even the simplest task becomes overwhelming to complete. So, they may eventually quit their jobs or they get fired. After losing their job, patients may start to feel unworthy and they may want to commit suicide. Patients have negative ideas that disrupt  their competence and confidence (Mayo Clinic, 2016).

Children are under risk

The prevalence of depression has increased and the average age at which it is seen, has decreased. Untreated depression can cause alcohol addiction and suicide. As the age at which depression is seen has decreased, the alcohol and drug addictions became more frequent among young people. Also, the incidence of depression-based suicides among young people has increased due to the same reason. Today, suicide is the second major cause of death between the ages of 15 and 29. As many as11% of children are regularly using antidepressants as a treatment for depression, a number that has increased (Bachmann, 2016). Because the age at which depression is observed has decreased, societies started perceiving depressive symptoms as personality traits of the patients. Because of this approach, depression is untreated and becomes chronic, and, as  a result, the treatment becomes more difficult and complex.

Overall, depression is a significant illness and it should be treated as soon as the symptoms appear. However, people are not aware of this until it becomes life threatening. If this is not corrected, depression will remain an important public health problem and patients will not be able to lead a normal life. We should keep in mind that it is now the second major cause of the disability around the world (World Health Organisation, 2016). Therefore, we should raise public awareness before it is too late.

References

  1.      World Health Organisation (WHO) , April 2016, Depression Fact Sheet , http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/
  2.      Dr. B. Mert Savrun. (1999), Definition of Depression and its Epidemiology.
  3.      Mayo Clinic, 2016 , section: Definition, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/definition/con-20032977
  4.      Chrisitan J. Bachmann, et al. Trends and patterns of antidepressant use in children and adolescents from five western countries, 2005-2012. European Neuropsychopharmacology. Volume 26, Issue 3, March 2016, Pages 411-419.
  5.      Ranna Parekh, American Psychological Association , 2015 , https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

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