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Is Depression now an International Epidemic?


photo by YouTube

This series of articles look at information between anxiety and depression experiences. They try to measure their relationship, similarities or differences. The first article looks at depression.

164 million Europeans, suffer a mental disorder in any year according to the European College of Neuropsychpharmacology. That is about 38% of the population.

People ask is depression different from anxiety?

The World Health Organisation in 2016 (1) estimated that over 350 million people worldwide suffered from this disabling negative condition.

Depression is a medical condition. It changes the ability to work, interacting with those in contact with the sufferers. Even taking care of themselves is a hard task.

Depression plays a major role on the family, work life, school life, social life, sleeping and eating habits. Almost every family has experienced a loved one suffer from depression at some time in their lives.
It does not discriminate. Men; women and children are affected. It cares not how well-educated a person is or what social background they have. Professors, chiefs of industry as well as individuals working to support their family in what can only be described as stressful and challenging times. It does not matter if the person has been positive or negative they can both be stricken by major depression in similar ways.

Depression can have a multitude of experiences that can trigger the downward spiral. To the sufferer it seems to be never-ending with no-light appearing in the dark void into which they are descending.

Both psychosocial and biochemical mechanisms appear to be important causes.

It is thought, that reduced norepinephrine and serotonin play an important role in mental well-being and the onset of depression.

Other triggers can include topics such as bullying, stress, poor nutrition with signs being fatigue, pain, nausea, headaches and many other physical symptoms. These can be incorrectly assessed as other medical conditions.

If the person suffers from related disorders these can be exaggerated in the mind of the depressive. The psychological reaction being an increase in pains that can become intolerable.

In severe cases the sufferer may reduce or eliminate signs of happiness and emotion which can lead to the depressive wondering about the value of life itself.

It does not happen over-night. It is the culmination of sometimes a whole string of events and experiences that may appear to be insignificant to others but major obstacles to the depressive. Perhaps one event triggering the onset of a personality disorder.

Depression is more than just occasionally feeling “emotional and down in the dumps” or “feeling at odds with the world”.

It is an all-enveloping negative mood, involving feelings of sadness, despair, hopelessness and lack of self-belief that can last not just days but weeks and months and sometimes even years.

It is also difficult to manage health treatment as there are days when normality or near normality appears to win through. But, what is going on in the mind of the depressive is generalised anxiety, far from the face presented to the world. A casual word, can be misinterpreted by the depressive seeing it as confirmation of their worthlessness.

This can especially be so, when someone who has been in a position of authority or one giving a service which demanded an optimistic view, has their position removed or their support withdrawn. The impact on their mind can be sudden and catastrophic. They feel they are totally rejected. So, have no right to continue, sometimes even with life itself. After all who would miss them?

It is one of the major reasons people seek out the support of therapy.

Even though the stigma of admitting depression still prevents many from seeking the help that has proven to be both supportive and worthwhile.

The feeling of worthlessness is shown in feeling shame about the condition they suffer. They feel that they cannot talk to a stranger about the way they feel. The belief being that such exposure may increase their feeling of worthlessness.

The mental stress of the depressive is emphasised in seeing the face of someone who loves them, as a buttress for striking out verbally and sometimes physically. As a result of the unadulterated frustration they feel as they recall their past life and compare it with their feelings of today.

Unfortunately often the diagnosis is carried out by well-intentioned family and friends. The only qualified people who can diagnose depression are the medical practitioner; the qualified health worker or the highly trained professional psychologist; psychotherapist or counsellor; who can conduct proper professional assessments and are experienced in mental health treatment.

The curse of the magazine and or the Internet search lead many to incorrect diagnoses. Diagnoses which are complicated because of the many facets of depression.


photo pixabay

Unfortunately it is proven that once depression has occurred it is likely to recur. This can manifest itself in even greater depths of despair. In turn effecting marriages, work and social environments.

The sufferer experiences a smaller and smaller world to try to survive. At first they may display a reluctance to play a role in society . This can disintegrate to agoraphobia and a reluctance to even cross their own thresholds. They will withdraw into the privacy of their thoughts. The sufferer cannot explain why this is, except to proclaim they are tired or do not feel like going out.

This can move to discourage visitors to the home including close family. Isolation to the depressive means they can hide their symptoms of shame and inability to communicate. Is one ever ‘cured’ of depression. I think not. For it is there, locked in their inner most thoughts.

Depression is there a CURE?

The special people in the lives of the depressive often misinterpret the ‘good days ‘ as large steps on the road to a ‘cure’.

The sufferer of personality disorders knows that there are also days when again they could just give up and once more feel they cannot cope or communicate those feelings with even the closest person to them.

They feel if they try to explain to peripheral people how they feel they would laugh and tell them to pull themselves together – if only it were that simple, depression is not a secondary condition.

People are too busy with their own lives to give the full care and attention a depressive requires. Not just for the time they are receiving medical or therapeutical help but for those days when the sun shines on the outside and the depths of hell remain on the inside.

There are stories that mental health checks should be included in general practitioners services. How many have received the special training that is necessary? Perhaps there is a need for a mental health specialist to be available to every medical centre. But, where does the money let alone the will or the understanding of the need come from?

If the depressive were to tell a friend they had an illness like a sore throat, the reply would be,’you should get that checked by your doctor’ but if they said they had a depressive disorder! Would the friend know what to say, even fail to give the same advice as for the sore throat. So the depressive says ‘I am over it’ and hides it away for another day. Unfortunately like a cancer it can grow and grow until again it breaks out and the depressive state starts again.

Other mental health concerns such as anxiety are commonly linked to depression.

There are many things of a similar nature between the two our next article will address anxiety and the differences between it and depression.

(1) World Health Factsheet

Author David Dutch

Author David Dutch