A person is diagnosed with this condition if they continuously feel worried or down and have lost pleasure in engaging in daily activities. Other symptoms include low self-esteem, feeling hopeless and helpless, tearful, guilty, and intolerable of others. However, there are various types of depression, and they need to be diagnosed correctly to receive an effective treatment plan.

What is Depression?

A person with depression is unmotivated and not interested in life; they find it difficult to make decisions and do not enjoy life’s pleasures. As a result, depressed person will socially isolate themselves and avoid all interactions. Because of this, the depressed individual will get stuck in a vicious cycle and spiral further downwards. Moreover, depression affects memory, and people may forget important details of their lives. In some extreme cases, the intensity of hopelessness can cause thoughts and intentions of self-harm and suicide.

Many internal and external factors determine the cause of depression, and It can range from mild, moderate to severe. Depression is fairly common. According to the World Health Organisation more than 350 million people suffer from it globally.

Internal causes of Depression:

  • Personality traits, such as neuroticism and pessimism.
  • Childhood experiences, especially if growing up, felt helpless and had little to no control over their lives.
  • Family history if a family member is diagnosed with depression.
  • Health problems such as heart, kidney disease or asthma.

External causes of Depression:

  • Money stress caused by financial concerns such as debt can trigger depressive symptoms.
  • Stress when a person cannot cope with all the demands.
  • Unemployment and other work-related stressors affect self-esteem and status. Perception of self can be distorted, and an individual may not attend social gatherings.
  • Bereavement followed by the death of a close family member, friend or pet.
  • Alcohol/drugs are due to physiological, social and financial aspects of addiction.
  • Bullying among children and adults, may it be physical or verbal, can trigger depressive symptoms.
  • Loneliness because of health, among other reasons. It’s most common among the elderly.
  • Pregnancy & birth involves an overwhelming prospect of parenthood.
  • Relationship problems

How is it diagnosed?

A GP can ask specific questions and come to a conclusion. The main three aspects to focus on is the duration, intensity, and frequency of said symptoms. Blood tests are conducted to rule out other illnesses. Considering the severity of the symptoms, a treatment plan is devised. If an individual is physically fit and still experiencing extremely low mood for two consecutive weeks, it can be diagnosed as depression.

“Depression is so insidious, its impossible to ever see the end” – Elizabeth Wurtzel

What is Perinatal Mental Illness?

This disorder can occur at any time during pregnancy and up to a year after giving birth. Perinatal mental illness includes postpartum/postnatal depression (PPD) and postpartum psychosis. Being irritable and overwhelmed after giving birth is normal and sometimes referred to as “baby blues”. However, what sets this apart from PPD is the duration and intensity of negative feelings. PPD is moderate to severe depression that can cause new mothers’ distress.

Symptoms include constant low mood, mood swings, low energy, difficulty bonding with baby and scary thoughts. Feelings of shame, inadequacy, and fear of failure as a parent may also persist. In severe cases, panic attacks, suicidal behaviour and self-harm may occur. PPD can develop suddenly, and the main reason for it is hormone and lifestyle changes. Previous research has indicated that most people who develop PPD also experienced low self-esteem, lack of support and stressful living conditions.

How is it diagnosed?

Doctors use efficient and reliable screening questionnaires such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scale to diagnose. The scale rates mood and activity levels over the last seven days. Other scales may be used in addition to PPD assessment scales to assess the level of mental wellbeing. However, it is easy to misdiagnose since new parents are less active simply because of their added responsibility.

Difference between PPD and postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a serious problem, and it affects 1-2 women per 1000 births. It occurs in the first few weeks of giving birth. Symptoms include confusion, paranoia, disorientation, hallucinations, delusions, and insomnia. A person may experience obsessive thoughts about the baby and can attempt to harm themselves or the baby. Immediate treatment is recommended for postpartum psychosis, and it requires hospitalisation, medication, and counselling.

Due to a lack of awareness, the symptoms of depression can go unnoticed, which can reduce the quality of life and cause distress. If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing a constant low mood, speak to a professional today. We at Halcyon are ready to walk with you towards your journey to peace and fulfilment.

Treatments for Depressive disorder and Perinatal mental illness:

  • Lifestyle changes For mild to moderate depression, exercise is helpful. Talk to friends and family; rest; eat healthily and regularly. Avoid alcohol as it is a depressant that will worsen symptoms.
  • Self-Help Includes affirmations, attend social events, and record yourself disproving negative assumptions. Engage in supportive listening and go easy on yourself!
  • Medications Antidepressants, along with psychotherapy, will be prescribed by professionals.
  • Counselling/psychotherapy
    1. Psychodynamic psychotherapy explores the root of the problem – it aims to bring the unconscious mind into consciousness.
    2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) identifies triggers, negative thoughts, habitual avoidance, and safety behaviours. It targets unhelpful negative beliefs/values and works to challenge and change them. 
    3. Behavioural Therapy (BT) identifies new behavioural goals and develops achievable and realistic steps to achieve set goals. BT is based on the concepts of classical conditioning (learning by association) and operant conditioning (learning through reinforcement).
    4. Psychoeducation to provide information and support to the person having trouble and to the carers may reduce the chances of the disorder persisting.
    5. Specialised residential treatment is used in addition to therapy and medication in severe PPD and postpartum psychosis cases.
    6. Group Therapy includes assertiveness training and building self-esteem, which helps counteract unhelpful thoughts and unfounded fears. Being in a group promotes a sense of normalcy, and individuals do not feel alone anymore.

You do not have to fight this condition alone. Contact counsellors at Halcyon and book a session.