Do you always feel tired or suffer an unexplained prolonged loss of appetite? Do you no longer enjoy your hobbies or have trouble sleeping?
According to mental health experts, these are some of the early signs of depression which could even lead to suicide.
Dr Felix Opondo, a psychologist, however, states that depression can be treated if these signs are noticed on time.
Founder of Psychiatric Disability Organisation Kenya Iregi Mwenja on his part revealed that people aged between 14 and 29 are more likely to suffer from depression.
So what are the warning signs of depression in young adults? Keep reading this article to find out.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.
More than just about of the blues, depression isn't a weakness and you can't simply "snap out" of it.
Depression may require long-term treatment. But don't get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both.
Symptoms of depression
Although depression may occur only once during your life, people typically have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:
• Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
• Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
• Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
• Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
• Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
• Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
• Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
• Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
• Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
• Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
• Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Causes of depression
1. Improper treatment
When a person decides to get treatment for depression, the approach used usually determines if they will get out of the rut.
One good method according to medical experts is called cognitive behavioural therapy, where a number of issues about a patient are tacked and follow-ups done.
There have been calls for public and private to prioritise and put more effort into managing mental health just as they do physical health.
It is important to educate and increase the number of psychologists and psychiatrists in health facilities to help with screening and managing children with emotional and behavioural problems.
2. Cultural beliefs
“People don’t get depressed in Nigeria,” opined Nigerian public health doctor Ike Anya in an August 2012 article in the Granta magazine.
“Many of my classmates, myself included, still look at depression as a largely Western illness,” he declared.
Such are the perceptions, Lambert Oigara, a psychologist at Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Kenya, a firm based in Nairobi’s Kilimani explains, that worsen the state of the depressed.
“We are told that men are not supposed to cry; that men are supposed to be strong. We grow up being conditioned that you are not supposed to do certain things,” he noted.
“Because of that, you find that if I am predisposed based on those factors — like if I am biologically predisposed to depression — I will really try to fight that because that is what I’ve always learnt; that I’m not supposed to express myself.
" And the more I try to repress those emotions, the higher the chances of me having worse symptomatology or experience of a depressive state,” adds Oigara.
The culture of labelling children as big-headed creates trouble and even physically punishing them while overlooking the possibility that the child might have emotional and behavioural problems might also warrant mental health attention.
A survey of 533 adolescents in Nyeri and Kiambu counties released in January 2018 had this conclusion:
“When compared to international standards, prevalence rates of emotional and behavioural problems [in the two counties] are almost twice as high as in children and adolescents in other comparable countries.”
The survey, titled Emotional and Behavioural Problems in Children and Adolescents in Central Kenya, was done by scholars from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in The Netherlands.
Some 1,022 mothers were interviewed alongside the 533 adolescents in the report published in the Springer journal.
“According to the parent reports, 27 per cent of the children and adolescents had emotional or behavioural problems,” the report revealed.
It added that 27 per cent of the teens were found to be on the borderline range while 17 per cent were on the clinical range.
According to the study, if the problems that show up during adolescence are not handled well, the risk later in life will be monumental.
The cases of school riots, burning of schools, people who kill their spouses and children, she warns, will continue unless teens receive help in handling traumatic life experiences.
As was the case with Avicii, being in the limelight exposes some individuals to extreme levels of anxiety, which is why alcohol and hard drugs are often misused.
“A documentary released in 2017, Avicii: True Stories, showed a man plagued with anxiety and stress, pushed to breaking point by his management and booking agency who repeatedly tried to make him play more shows,” The Independent reported in an April 27 story.
It added: “Evidence shows that long touring can take a severe toll on an artiste’s physical and mental health. The accompanying lifestyle neglects the basic human needs — disrupted sleeping patterns, physical distance from friends and family, readily available drugs, and alcohol and the pressure of performing in front of large crowds can be a lethal combination.”
Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse are among the big names who struggled with depression as the whirlwind of fame whizzed around them.
Their experiences were proof that a person can have lots of money but cannot buy happiness.
5. Genetic disposition
Depression can run in the genes, just like some types of diseases.
If there are people who have had depression in a family, some relatives will be prone to depression, the same way as people who have physical ailments like diabetes and high blood pressure who just at some point start developing those symptoms without any particular trigger.
Medical experts state that there is a bit of biology involved, which is due to a chemical imbalance.
However, they are quick to warn that it is simplistic to argue that there is a suicide gene in instances where depression leads someone to take their own life.
According to them, the factors leading to suicide are complex and wide-ranging.
6. Exposure to adversity
The reason why a number of suicides and macabre killings have involved members of the police force is reportedly because they are exposed to many ugly happenings in their line of duty.
The police are exposed to a lot of emotional and psychological trauma. With the kind of job they do, they are always in crime scenes where people have died and such. And they are exposed emotionally and psychologically. And they’re prone to trauma
Such factors as having been to a war zone, having served a jail term and working as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist can make one prone to depression.
Furthermore, doctors state that exposure to people with suicidal behaviour, like friends and family, can lead to depression.
A struggle with body weight is one of the reasons known to cause depression all over the world.
Some individuals may develop anorexia, an eating disorder, as they struggle to achieve the desired weight.
Doctors also warn that having less than eight hours of sleep every night will aggravate depression in an individual.
Doctors further advise the public to learn healthy sleeping habits. whether too little or too much, your mood is affected by the number of hours you sleep.
Staying indoors for long periods, experts reveal, lowers the body’s serotonin levels, partly due to deficiency of Vitamin D. Waning levels of serotonin, the chemical that sends signals between nerve cells, could trigger depression.
8. Financial woes
Companies are shutting down every other day, taxes keep rising and, according to the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (Unicef), 42 per cent of the Kenyan population lives below the poverty line.
The cost of living has gone so high that even the relatively well-off have to take up two or three jobs to keep pace.
Life, it appears, can only get tougher for the millions of Kenyans battling depression.
Poverty is a contributing factor, but even people who come from rich backgrounds and high social set-ups are still prone to depression.
Such factors as unemployment or low job security can also catalyse depression.
9. Dysfunctional families
The one place where depression symptoms are likely to be caught is in the family. But when there is dysfunction at home, it is likely that the problem will reach dangerous levels.
Psychologist state that it is important for parents to start getting the basics. And not to ignore the fact that, for sure, children do understand what goes around them.
According to them, the only way depression can be tackled is by starting at the household level.
“Once a mother conceives her baby, the home environment should be peaceful to avoid unnecessary stress hormones being passed to the baby, which may destabilise its stress regulatory system,” one psychologist warns.
From the culture shock a new student experiences to the peer pressure to abuse drugs due to new-found freedom, it appears that institutions of higher learning provide the perfect breeding ground for depression.
Furthermore, students get into romantic relationships hoping for a fairy tale. When the relationship goes south, it means the end of the world for them, so they start nursing suicidal thoughts.
How to overcome depression
No one should underestimate the power of counselling in bringing a depressed person back on track, experts advise.
The good news is that at the moment, there are mobile-based services where a person can call a counsellor and vent out.
Lambert Oigara a psychologist at Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Kenya, a firm based in Nairobi’s Kilimani states that there is an encouraging trend where young people take the initiative to look for help.
“Maybe it is because of the internet and campaigns to de-stigmatise mental illness,” he noted.
Another place where a person can find hope, Oigara disclosed, are places of worship.
“I’m sure churches, mosques and the like have systems in place where someone can go and talk to someone in confidence,” he stated.
He added: “Support groups are also available where people can visit and get to talk to those with similar problems and they’re able to be supported.”
Dorcas Magai, a clinical and developmental psychologist, revealed one solution to depression is by a person learning to open up.
“We should learn to talk about childhood experiences that hurt us, and which we struggle with as adults, to people we trust. When we keep them to ourselves, the issues pile up mentally and will definitely get out of hand,” she divulged.
Hiram Chomba of Befrienders Kenya pointed out that a person can ask a relative to check on them regularly or meet new people by joining a new class or club.
Most importantly, he insisted, a person should learn to banish the defeatist thinking within themselves.
“You will need to substitute negative thoughts with more balanced perspectives,” he advised.
Source: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), Nation
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