Defining, diagnosing and dealing with depression


The world observed World Mental Health Day last Wednesday by raising awareness on mental health illnesses, psycho-education and types of psychotherapy.

In efforts to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues and its treatment, Dr Ahmed Valli (FCPsych), a psychiatrist, and Dr Liezel Anguelova (D.Litt Et Phill), a counselling psychologist at Life Roseacres Hospital, gave a description of depression, its symptoms and ways to treat the illness.

Depression is an illness that seriously impairs a person’s life, performance at work, the enjoyment of leisure activities and one’s personal relationships.

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The difficulty in diagnosing depression is that no two people will have the exact same two symptoms.

The following are a number of symptoms that are commonly experienced:

• Sadness, emptiness and inability to enjoy life.

• Irritability.

• Feelings of anxiety.

• Loss of interest in personal appearance.

• Constant feelings of tiredness/lack of energy.

• Physical symptoms, such as headaches or backache.

• Concentration-related problems.

• Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.

• Fluctuations in sleeping and eating patterns.

These symptoms often develop over several weeks or months, and numerous symptoms will be present at the same time.

A number of effective medicines, as well as psychological interventions, are available. By visiting your doctor and having depression diagnosed you have already taken the first step on the road to recovery.

According to Dr Valli and Dr Anguelova, effective treatment of depression usually requires a combination of medication and counselling or psychotherapy.

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Antidepressant medication:

A large number of effective medicines are available for the treatment of depression.

• Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

• Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

• Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).

People respond uniquely to different medication, therefore, your doctor will give careful consideration to choosing the individual medication that will be the most appropriate for your treatment.

Counselling:

Counselling, used in addition to antidepressants, is an important part of the treatment of depression.

• Assists in identifying the causes of their depression and anxiety.

• Helps in recovery and reducing the chances of relapsing.

• Counselling may take many forms such as trauma counselling, counselling for death and bereavement, marriage and family counselling.

• Counselling is a process and it is important that counselling sessions be attended regularly.

Depression is often also a difficult condition for family and friends to understand.

Therefore, they may need help in understanding their depressed family member.

Popular belief is that depression is something that you can just ‘snap out of’, when in fact it is a serious illness.

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Self-help and support groups:

It is often helpful to talk to others with depression. This may reassure people they are not the only person experiencing the feelings associated with depression.

Your doctor or counsellor should be able to provide contact details for self-help groups in your area.

Visit these sites for more information on depression: www.depnet.com, www.lundbeck.com or www.firstsupport.ca.

To find a support group contact:

• South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group on 0800 567 567 or visit www.sadag.org.

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• Depression and Anxiety Support Group on 011 783 1474/6 or fax 011 884 7074 or visit www.anxiety.org.

Have a story?

Contact the newsroom by emailing: Melissa Hart (Editor) [email protected] or Leigh Hodgson (News Editor) [email protected] or Kgotsofalang Mashilo (journalist) [email protected]

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