HIDDEN SIGNS OF DEPRESSION
Think Robin Williams and we all remember the 4-time Oscar nominee, famous comedian, actor par excellence, entertaining people with his light, breezy roles in Hollywood films—always smiling, laughing, making people laugh. It came as a shock to the world when he died on Aug 11, 2014—by suicide. What made it even more shocking was that this effervescent actor was suffering from severe depression that led him to take his own life. To the public, and even to close friends, he always ‘seemed’ funny, happy and financially stable, making one think that he ‘had it all’. But behind that cheerful, upbeat persona, he was battling depression, drug and alcohol addiction, early stages of Parkinson’s disease; also a known risk factor for depression.
What is Depression?
“Depression is a mood disorder which causes a persistent feeling of sadness, despair, moroseness and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It affects how we think, feel and behave, and can lead to a myriad of emotional and physical problems. It is a serious illness that negatively affects you. It can decrease the ability to function—whether at home, socially or on the work front.”
How Does one Distinguish Depression from a General Feeling of Sadness?
The symptoms must last, at least, two weeks and they should visibly represent a change in previous level of functioning. Sadness is an emotion while depression is a mental illness. Depression is more than just experiencing the “blues”, and one can’t just snap out of it. It is treatable but could require long-term treatment.
Visible and Hidden Signs of Depression
Depression is fairly common and one in six people experience it either once or multiple times during a lifetime. Two or more of the following symptoms could occur over a period of time, every day.
• Feelings of emptiness, sadness, hopelessness, tearfulness or crying spells.
• A loss of interest in previously enjoyed and looked-forward-to activities including sex, hobbies and sports.
• Irritability, frustration, outbursts of anger even over trivial issues.
• Sleep disturbances including over-sleeping or lack of sleep, insomnia.
• A feeling of fatigue and absolute lack of energy to complete even the smallest of tasks.
• Changes in food habits—overeating or an increase in appetite since they crave foods that release the feel-good neurotransmitters eg. High sugar meals will release serotonin- the ‘happiness hormone’; or undereating caused by a loss of appetite due, partially, to an excess of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the system.
• Inability to function normally in terms of speech, movement, thought. Having trouble in decision-making, remembering things, lack of concentration.
• A contrasting symptom could be forcing a “happy face” or “toxic positivity” which includes an overly positive attitude in public or on social media in order to mask the true feelings.
• Restlessness, agitation and feelings of anxiety.
• Onset of unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, body-ache, etc
• A massive dip in self-worth, accompanied by feelings worthlessness, guilt, negative self-image, reliving past failures and attaching self-blame to them.
• Recurrent and frequent thoughts of suicide, death, attempts to commit suicide, or committing suicide.
Depression is not bound, or limited to, a particular age-group—people of all ages could experience depression and manifest it in different ways.
In younger children, it could be manifested in ways or behaviors like clinginess, neediness, tantrums, irritability, refusal to go to school, losing weight, aches and pains.
In teenagers, symptoms to watch out for could be feelings of worthlessness, negativity, sadness, poor performance in school, over-sensitivity, feeling misunderstood, rebelling against authority, resorting to recreational drugs and alcohol, withdrawing from family and friends, eating or sleeping too much, self-mutilation.
In older adults, it could be manifested in ways like personality change, difficulties in remembering things, physical aches and pains, loss of interest in sex, sleep disturbances, tiredness, dithering about even stepping out of the house, suicidal thoughts.
Whatever the age, persistent symptoms like these are, truly, worrisome. Sadly, depression is often misdiagnosed and, hence, untreated. People experiencing depression may feel hesitant about seeking help.
Causes of Depression
Depression is fairly common and one does need to look at why it occurs. There are certain factors that mental health professionals have zeroed in on, that seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering depression.
• Having a familial history of depression or other mental health issues like bipolar disorder, substance abuse, suicide make a person have a predisposition to depression.
• Traumatic events like sexual or physical abuse, end of a relationship either by death of a loved one or a ‘break-up’, financial problems or a constant abusive relationship.
• Experiencing a gender-identity crisis and being in an unsupportive environment because of one’s sexual orientation.
• Substance abuse, be it alcohol or recreation drugs.
• A history of mental health disorders like anxiety disorders, eating disorders– like bulimia or anorexia– resulting in a poor self-image regarding one’s body, post-traumatic stress disorder.
• Certain medications cause chemical imbalances in the body eg. Some blood pressure medications, sleeping pills, etc
• Suffering from a serious, chronic, prolonged illness like cancer, lingering pain, a stroke or heart disease, making the person question ‘being alive’.
• Post-partum depression, where a new mother could question her capability on taking care of her new-born or resent the baby for a complete change of lifestyle.
Ways to Deal with Depression
Depression needs to be recognized for what it is. Help should be sought by reaching out to a close friend, a loved one, a doctor or a mental health professional. If you think you are plagued by thoughts of self-harm or suicide, reach out to a helpline. Likewise, if you know someone experiencing such troubled thoughts, make sure that that person is not alone and has someone around him.
The terrible truth about depression is that it is a disease that can rob you of your perspective on life. It is not a character weakness. It is not a personal failing. It is a disorder that can pervade all aspects or your life, sapping you of your strength, your emotions, your social, work and family life, making you withdraw from all kinds of interaction and activities. It can make a person feel life is not worth living. Everyone needs to be educated and informed about this disorder since their perception of the illness causes the depressed person to conceal, suppress and deny it until it becomes too much to bear.
We need to put it out there that there are treatments that work and people can recover from depression—with support, awareness and treatment. Depression need not be combatted with, alone. This brings to mind the words used by Robin William’s character in the film, Good Will Hunting, “You’ll have had bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” You are worthy, your life is precious, and every hurdle or mental illness can be dealt with and treated. So, reach out about those feelings of despair and help is, definitely, around the corner.
Our Customized EAP solutions
At KelpHR, our experts can help you with solutions for the mental health and well-being of your employees through our Counselling and Employee Assistance Programs. For more on our customized and confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) solutions that help provide mental health and wellness for organizations and their employees, do get in touch with us at email@example.com, call +91-95001-29652.
KelpHR was incorporated in 2013 to provide the best HR solutions to organizations, and to improve workplace culture across the board. Over the last 8 years, we have serviced more than 700 clients in India and a few overseas, across various industries in the areas of POSH (prevention of sexual harassment at workplace), D, E & I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and EAP. But the common objective of all of these services is to build safer, happier, inclusive and productive workplaces.
For any of our other services related to Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D, E&I), do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call +91-95001-29652 and we’d be able to help you with customized offerings suited to your organization.