What is depression?
Depression is a common, serious and in some cases life-threatening condition, affecting 350 million people globally.1
About 10-15% of the population will suffer from depression during their lifetime, and it occurs more frequently in women and the elderly. A number of treatments are, however, available for depression and it can be successfully treated in the majority of people. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease.1
Sometimes, people become depressed following a particularly stressful period in their lives, such as the death of a close relative or friend, or after losing a job, and there is evidence that some people inherit an increased risk of depression.
Depression is often not recognised, which may have severe consequences for individuals suffering from depression, as well as their family members.
Depression is an illness that can seriously impair all aspects of a person’s life, including personal relationships, performance at work and enjoyment of leisure activities.
One of the features of depression which can make it difficult to diagnose, is that no two people will have exactly the same symptoms associated with the illness.
A number of symptoms are, however, commonly seen:
- Feelings of guilt and/or helplessness
- Feelings of anxiety
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Reduced appetite
- Loss of interest in personal appearance
- Loss of interest in favourite activities
- Difficulty in sleeping (either falling asleep when first going to bed, or being unable to get back to sleep)
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Constant feelings of tiredness / lack of energy
- Changes in weight
- Physical symptoms, such as headache or backache.
These symptoms will, typically, develop over a period of several weeks or months, and several will be present at the same time.
A number of effective medicines and psychological interventions are available to treat depression, and the illness can be successfully treated in the majority of people.
By visiting your doctor and having your depression diagnosed, you have already taken the first step on the road to recovery.
Depression is not your fault
There are many myths and misconceptions about depression.
It is important to know that depression is not:
- Just feeling ‘a bit down’
Depression has a profound effect on your everyday life.
- A sign of weakness
Depression is caused by an imbalance of special chemical substances in the brain, called neuro transmitters. Personality and stressful life may trigger the imbalance.
- A ‘punishment’ because you are a bad person
Depression is an illness that can affect anyone.
- Something to feel guilty about
Remember, depression is not your fault.
Burden in the workplace
Depression is the most predominant mental health problem among working-age patients.1
Depression in the workplace is a leading cause of lost work productivity due to e.g. sick leave and early retirement.
Workers with depression report an average 5.6 hours per week lost productivity.1
Absenteeism and presenteeism represent over 50% of all costs related to depression.1
Cognitive dysfunction is a frequent but less recognised part of depression. Its impact on QoL (Quality of Life) and ability to function professionally or socially can be very detrimental.
Cognitive dysfunction is a key feature of depression, in both young and older adults, and has been reported to be present 94 % of the time during major depressive episodes.
The Stigma of Depression
Efforts must be made to tackle depression-related stigma so those afflicted are able to come forward and seek treatment.
Although awareness of the problem of depression has improved, the stigma attached to it remains.
A formal diagnosis of depression is not always made because sufferers fear being “labelled” as having a mental health problem. Therefore, most depression-related problems tend to be referred to as “stress”.
Equally, stigma reduces the willingness of authorities to provide appropriate care.
Society needs to be better informed about depression, the symptoms and signs and the serious consequences of untreated depression.
Cognitive symptoms are:
• Slow thinking • Forgetfulness
• Indecisiveness • Trouble concentrating