Depression is more than ‘feeling sad’

In our final entry to cap off Mental Health Awareness Month, Masithethe Counselling Services director Jackie Orsmond gives insight into depression.

The first thing one needs to know is that there is a big difference between feeling sad and suffering from depression.

“No one can feel happy at all times and we all experience mild day-to-day feelings of sadness and irritability,” said Orsmond.

“But major depression is quite another thing, and the sufferer usually needs some assistance in overcoming the problem.”

Orsmond said there were two main forms of depression.

The first is acute depression, which she described as relatively short-lived, intense and painful.

“It usually follows an experience of loss, from the death of a loved one on one hand to the loss of a purse, etc on the other,” she said.

Acute depression doesn’t usually last longer than 12 to 18 months, according to Orsmond, though some sufferers may require counselling and medication to help them.

The second form is chronic depression, which has the same symptoms as the first kind but is always disabling to the person suffering from it.

“The sufferer normally needs life-long medication and counselling,” Orsmond said.

Depression can also be a symptom of another condition, such as bipolar disorder or seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Common symptoms of depression, both acute and chronic, include:

  • General feelings of sadness
  • Too little or too much sleep
  • Low self-esteem
  • Under or over-eating
  • Lack of motivation and energy
  • Desire to avoid company
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Fearfulness
  • Irritability

“Should a caller present with six or more of these symptoms, it can be assumed that they are suffering from depression,” said Orsmond.

Orsmond had some important advice for those who are suffering from depression.

First, she said people should avoid bottling up their emotions and trying to “go it alone”.

“Try to tell people who are close to you how you feel. It is not weak to cry or admit you are struggling,” she said.

She also suggested distracting oneself with chores, watching TV, reading or similar activities that don’t require too much concentration.

“Do eat regularly, even if you do not feel like eating. Try to eat a healthy diet.

Try to tell people who are close to you how you feel. It is not weak to cry or admit you are struggling

“Don’t drink too much alcohol as the immediate effect may seem to relieve the symptoms, however, drinking heavily is likely to make your situation worse in the long run.”

Orsmond advised against making major decisions when experiencing a depressive episode.

“It may be tempting to give up a job or move away to solve the problem,” she said.

However, it is wiser to wait until one is feeling well again before making these kinds of decisions.

It may be necessary to take time off of work if possible to recuperate, but too much time off may end up doing more harm than good as it can lead to a person dwelling too long on their problems or brooding at home.

Finally, Orsmond urged anyone who thinks they may be suffering from depression to seek help, either at a hospital or from counselling centres such as Masithethe.

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