Depression is known by different names in many languages. In ancient Chinese medicine, the medical concept of ” 神由心生 “describes the origin of mental health as being from the heart. In Shakespearean plays, “melancholy”, “despair”, ïllusions”, “suicide” were words used for characters familiar to many of us, such as Romeo and King Hamlet. It is understandable for one to feel down and sad at different stages of life.
Stress may come from family, work, studies or other significant life events. However, if feelings of being depressed, feeling worried, being agitated persists and affects sleep, appetite and the ability to function at school or at work, seeking professional help is recommended. In Singapore, the lifetime prevalence rate of depression is about 5% (Chua et al, 2004). Symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest in your daily routine
- Significant weight changes
- Insomnia at night or strong desire to sleep during the day
- Experiencing strong apathy
- Difficulty in paying attention for a prolonged period
- Thoughts of ending your life
- Changes in appetite
- Chronic tiredness
- Problems with self-esteem
- Feeling worthless
In severe cases of depression, there may be other symptoms such as:
- Experiencing hallucinations
- Becoming delusional
- Becoming paranoid
- Suicidal thoughts and behavior
Although life events frequently trigger or contribute to depression, biological causes such as hormonal changes (e.g. postpartum depression after delivery), during menstrual cycle (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and imbalance of neurotransmitters are also focus areas of treatment in clinical depression. In PMDD, the symptoms are associated and with the start of a menstrual cycle. In countries where four seasons are present, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) commonly occurs in the winter months of the year. SAD is mostly caused by lack of natural sunlight, hence light therapy is frequently used to treat this kind of depression. Light treatment involves a patient sitting in a special light box for about 20-45 minutes per session. Alcohol is often consumed by people when feeling stressed. It is important to remember that alcohol is not a treatment for depression and can sometimes lead to more serious mental health problems.
Depressive disorders make one feel let down by everyone and everything. This can lead to suicidal thoughts and desire to end one’s life. It is important not to give in to this urge, instead seek help as soon as possible. Many countries have special hotlines, where anyone can call a hotline number and get urgent psychological help. In Singapore, the Institute of Mental Health offers 24 hours outpatient and inpatient help. Confidential and sensitive help can also be obtained from psychiatrists and psychologists in the private sector in Singapore.
Written by Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic