During a 2010 survey of the National Mental Health, it was found that Singapore had a 6.3% prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder or MDD among adults. Clinical depression is becoming a major health problem in the country.
Here are the things you need to know about depression.
Every now and then, it’s normal to feel down. Feelings of loneliness and hopelessness are okay if they fade after a while. If “feeling blue” however is interfering with your daily activities, relationship and self-esteem, it could be depression.
Major depression involves a persistent feeling of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, and guilt. The person also loses interest in daily activities, interests, hobbies, and relationships. He/she always feels fatigued, has difficulty sleeping and eating, irritable, and sometimes contemplates death.
Self-diagnosis is not recommended. The person has to have a detailed examination before he/she can undergo treatment.
In a clinical evaluation, the patient will be interviewed for a detailed history and description of the symptoms. That includes family history as well as determining the severity of the symptoms and the stressors. An assessment of risks of self-harm, suicide and the risk of harming other people is also done.
Physical examination is performed and laboratory tests may be required to determine if the symptoms might be caused by other medical conditions.
Types of Depression
If depression has been persistent for a long period, it’s called dysthymia. Perinatal depression is experienced by mothers before and after giving birth. Seasonal affective disorder happens during specific times of the year. Psychotic depression is accompanied by psychotic symptoms. Bipolar disorder is a combination of alternating manic and depressive moods.
Depression is different from anxiety disorder but they can also manifest symptoms like irritability, insomnia, nervousness and inability to concentrate.
Treatment and Management
Moderate to severe depression in adults is usually treated with prescribed antidepressants, usually a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. The effects on the patient are monitored, so usually a lower dose is given at first.
Psychotherapy, in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, is recommended for patients with mild to moderate MDD. It is also recommended for persons with recurring depression no longer taking medication. Psychotherapy is the first line of treatment for children and adolescents. Interpersonal therapy and psychoeducation might also be recommended.
Electroconvulsive therapy is advised in some cases especially if the patient has not responded to medication or if the person has severe psychomotor retardation.
Depression doesn’t disappear by telling the person to “toughen up and deal with it.” It’s a medical condition resulting from the changes in the brain’s neurochemicals and function. Family members of the patient must be educated about the condition of the patient to help in the recovery process.
Patients with thoughts of suicide should be closely monitored. Sometimes hospitalization is recommended in some cases.
If you know someone who might need help or if you yourself need someone to talk to, contact Samaritans of Singapore at 1800-221 4444. You can also book an appointment with Singapore Counselling Centre through their website.