It is normal to feel sad every now and then, especially with life’s challenges, but when sad feelings persists beyond 2 weeks and escalate to feeling helpless, hopeless and even worthless, then you could be dealing with something beyond regular sadness. You could be depressed.
Depression can be described as a feeling of constant sadness or lack of interest in life.
Depression is easily diagnosed. The DSM-5 is a manual doctors use to diagnose mental disorders. You can be diagnosed as having depression when you have five or more of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks:
Your mood is depressed for most of the day, especially in the morning.
You feel tired or have a lack of energy almost every day.
You feel hopeless or pessimistic.
You have a hard time focusing, remembering details, and making decisions.
You have almost no interest or pleasure in many activities nearly every day.
You think often about death or suicide (not just a fear of death).
You feel restless or slowed down.
You’ve lost or gained weight
You may also:
Feel cranky and restless
Lose pleasure in life
Overeat or stop feeling hungry
Have aches, pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that don’t go away or get better with treatment
Have sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
Symptoms differ between individuals.
Depression impedes productivity. When you are depressed, work becomes an unpleasant chore and activities you previously enjoyed lose their flavour.
The good news is that depression responds very well to treatment. Most people diagnosed will do well with talk therapy which involves sessions with a therapist. In the absence of access to a therapist, talking to someone you can trust that won’t judge you really helps. More severe cases of depression will need medication and many respond well to this treatment too.
According to the World Health Organisation, depression is common affecting 5% of the world’s population. It is described as a leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
Sadly, there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health and many people deny their struggles seeking the wrong type of solutions or not seeking help at all.
Many would rather lie that they have malaria than admit to feeling sad and blue.
Organisations and HR teams can help by raising awareness and providing support to their workforces through the provision of well designed and integrated wellness programmes.
Remember, you are not alone. Many people suffer depression and many people with depression appear highly functional.
Speak to someone.