Depression 101; All You Need To Know.

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What Is Depression?

Depression is an illness that affects the body, mood, and thoughts. It interferes with normal functioning, daily life, and how one feels, thinks, and handles daily activities such as sleeping, eating, or working.

Depression is a global public health concern. It is difficult to estimate the prevalence of depression in Pakistan because of the absence of adequate research studies. According to one systemic review in the overall population of Pakistan, the prevalence of depression is 34%. The ratio of girls suffering from depression is almost double that of boys, because of early marriages, high infertility rates, low employment, low literacy level, poverty, and health care services neither available nor accessible. In Pakistan, women with depression are reluctant to visit a doctor because of the stigma associated with mental illness.

7 Chief Causes Of Depression

1. Genetics

People who have a first-degree relative who has depression are at greater risk for developing the disease.

2. Environmental factors

Many life events including job loss, loss of a loved one, trauma, problematic relationships, lack of social network can be a reason for depression.

3. Psychological factors

Some peoples are born with a personality that includes a depressive way of thinking. Such people are at a higher risk of falling into depression.

4. Brain structures

Differences in the size and shape in areas of the brain responsible for mood, sleep, and appetite. The same brain structures can determine someone’s depressive nature.

5. Biochemical Reactions

Chemicals in the brain including serotonin and dopamine are sometimes not well-balanced. This imbalance can lead to depression.

6. Hormone Imbalance

Changes in the balance of hormones especially during menopause or during or after pregnancy can be a major cause of depression in women.

7. Medical Conditions

Illnesses such as hypothyroidism, hepatitis, and head injuries may contribute to depression.

5 Signs And Symptoms Of Depression

1. Mood Symptoms

Depressed mood, sadness, loss of interest or enjoyment in practically all activities, sense of worthlessness or guilt with no reason, and loss of interest in sexual activities or desire, all are a symptom of depression.

2. Physical Symptoms

Depression comes with physical symptoms such as lack of energy, increase or decrease in appetite, increase or decrease in sleep, pain, feeling emotionally numb, and irritability.

4. Behavioral Symptoms

Social withdrawal, slowed speech, slowed movements, and loss of efficiency in completing tasks, are a few behavioral symptoms of depression.

5. Psychological Symptoms

Hopelessness, loss of self-esteem, concentration and memory problems, trouble deciding, distractibility, lack of motivation, and suicidal thoughts can be a strong indicator of depression.

6. Co-occurring Disorders

Disorders that frequently occur with depression include anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, personality trait issues, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

When to see a doctor?

The first step is to do a self-analysis. Look for the symptoms in yourself, if you suspect any unusual behavior it’s time to seek medical help. Your psychologist will first diagnose you properly. You can be a victim of some other medical condition as well, so a proper diagnosis is crucial. Once the diagnosis is confirmed your doctor will start your therapy. This therapy can be coupled with medications as prescribed by a psychiatrist if deemed necessary.

For the most reliable diagnosis and best treatment, you should consult the best psychologists in Pakistan. 

about depression

9 Effects Of Depression And Stress On The Brain

Depression can damage the brain permanently and cause some areas of the brain to shrink, and the damage can last even when the disease has been cured. Up to 20% of depression patients never make a full recovery.

There are three parts of the brain that appear to play a role in depressive disorder.

1. Hippocampus

Hippocampus stores memories. Recurring depressive episodes reduce the size of the hippocampus. This can lead to memory problems.

2. Prefrontal Cortex

It regulates emotions, deciding ability, and memories. Multiple episodes of depression cause the prefrontal cortex to shrink.

3. Amygdala

It facilitates emotional responses, such as pleasure and fear. In depressive disorder, the amygdala becomes enlarged and more active. It can cause disturbances in sleep and activity patterns.

4. Halts The Production Of New Brain Cells

This retarded production is associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Greater Risk For Mental Illnesses

Depression leads to serious and more severe mental disorders like panic disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, drug addiction, and alcoholism.

6. Makes Stupid

Yes, you read that right. If depression is not treated well, it can impair your ability to decide and respond smartly.

7. Lets Toxins Into Your Brain

These toxins are associated with brain cancer, brain infections, multiple sclerosis.

8. Deplete Brain Chemicals

Depression can literally reduce the number of your brain cells. This can cause anxiety, unfocused, unmotivated, and lethargy.

9. Above All

If you are lucky enough to escape depression with no permanent damage to your brain, let me remind you that even the symptoms are no fun and games. Depression destroys happiness and peace of mind. It wears down mentally and emotionally and saps the joy from life. It comes with excessive worry and fear, anger and frustration, impatience with self and others, mood swings, crying spells or suicidal thoughts, insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams, trouble concentrating and learning new information, nervousness, forgetfulness, mental confusion, difficulty in deciding, feeling overwhelmed, irritability and overreaction.


Depression effects

How Depression Can Affect One’s Life

If left untreated, it can lead to impairment to live a normal life. Its effects are from annoyance to death. Common effects include anxiety, social isolation, headache, sexual dysfunction, family and marital problems, suicide.

How Can I Help Myself If I Am In Depression?

  • Try to be active.
  • Exercise.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set priorities, and do what you can.
  • Spend time with trusted friends or relatives.
  • Postpone important life decisions until feel better.
  • Discuss decisions with others who know you well.

How Can I Help A Someone In Depression?

These pro-active steps will help you in being of good use to others.

  • Help the person see a doctor.
  • Offer support, understanding, patience, encouragement.
  • Go out with the person for walks, outings.
  • Help the person adhere to the treatment plan.
  • Help by providing transportation.
  • Ensure the person that, with time and treatment, their disease will lift.
  • Help them in improving their diet by including fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, green tea.
  • Motivate them to do daily physical exercise including walking and yoga.
  • Start a daily meditation practice with them.
  • Try Mind-body relaxation with them.

How is depression treated?

  • Good Exercise.
  • Visiting a psychologist/psychiatrist
  • Psychotherapy–It helps by teaching alternative ways of thinking and behaving and changing habits that may contribute to depression.
  • Medications (Antidepressants)
  • Brain stimulation therapies- Electroconvulsive therapy.

Book an appointment now, to answer all your queries. You can book an appointment with top psychologists in Pakistan through Marham by calling at Marham helpline: 0311-1222398 or by online appointment booking facility through the website or Marham mobile app.

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Dr. Rohana Naqi
Dr. Rohana Naqi has been working Research Associate at McMaster University, Medical School in Hamilton, Ontario. She did Fellowship in Neuroradiology at Aga Khan University. She worked at Liaquat National Hospital & Medical College, Dow University of Health Sciences and Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre