Presenting an exclusive excerpt from Amrita Tripathi and Arpita Anand's book, Real Stories of Dealing with Depression (Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster) which offers first-person accounts of fighting, surviving and healing, and finding a silver lining in the dark clouds of depression.
The book also tries to find answers to some of the simplest questions — how do you know you're depressed, who to seek out for help, and how to deal with those who suggest you to just 'shrug it off'!
Real Stories of Dealing with Depression. (Photo: Simon & Schuster)
(Excerpted with the permission of Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
According to a World Health Organization World Mental Health (WHO WMH) supported study, approximately 36 per cent of Indians are likely to suffer from major depression at some point in their lives. Don’t you think then, that it’s really crucial for us to address this issue and spread some awareness?
Fortunately, in my 15 years of experience as a psychotherapist in India, I have witnessed a big shift toward greater acceptance and destigmatising of mental health illnesses. This is also evident in my practice — from struggling to receive referrals a decade ago, I now have a full schedule. On average, about 60 per cent of the individuals that I work with cite depression as one of their core concerns.
SO WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
In diagnostic clinical terms, depression is defined as a debilitating mood disorder. However, it can manifest itself in many forms. I believe we are all on a mental health continuum at different times in our lives, experiencing varying levels of sadness, existential angst and hopelessness. There are many who live fragile lives and are at the ‘deep end’ — filled with complete darkness and despair. There are the ‘undetected many’ who float in the middle — often experiencing a steady underlying sense of sadness; this is a feeling captured well by American comedienne Jessi Klein who joked about ‘being a little bit sad all of the time’.
Before we start talking about depression, let's identify the signs. (Representative photo: Reuters)
The National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom has a comprehensive list of symptoms or signs to watch out for on their website, which include:
• continuous low mood or sadness
• feeling hopeless and helpless
• having low self-esteem
• feeling tearful
• feeling guilt-ridden
• feeling irritable and intolerant of others
• having no motivation or interest in things
Look out for these symptoms and if they persist for weeks or months and find out if they are interfering with your work, social and family life. This list of symptoms provides a sense of how extensively depression can affect an individual’s psycho-emotional, physical and social life. It helps to identify early signs of depression so that you can seek help for it before things get worse. Getting help from family and friends is helpful but receiving professional support, namely psychotherapy, can help get to the root of the issues.
While many of our fears and anxieties may seem irrational, understanding why we may have developed them helps build insight, self-awareness and healthier coping mechanisms. Medication may be helpful in cases where the symptoms are severe and interfere with an individual’s capacity to function on a regular basis.