Understanding depression in this season
Ben, distressed, discontented and discouraged is withdrawn and unkempt. He was about to recover from the failure in his medical examination when the news of his supportive father’s death from cancer hit him like thunder. Next, his fiancee’ abandoned him for another man. This was a lady whom he gave his all. A woman who had grown up with Ben and had become a member of his household. Yet, Tomi didn’t care to abandon Ben when he needed her most.
Ben is suffering from depression. Normally, depression is both a cognitive (mental) and affective (emotional) health disorder, which is rooted in feelings of a deep sense of loss. These low feelings may grow from sorrow to grief and patients may recover without any form of medical or psychological treatment.
However, there exists another type of depression, which is persistent, dysfunctional and seriously harmful. This is referred to as depressive disorder or clinical depression. Clinical depression is often a product of the combined effects of social, psychological and medical conditions, which result in impairment of daily living. Research reveals that about a million and half Nigerians suffer from Clinical depression every year.
There are four types of depression namely; dysthymia, psychotic, bipolar and post-partum. Dysthymia involves mood swings, which may last for two years. Psychotic depression is a severe form of depression, which leads to loss of touch with reality. The bipolar type involves swings between mania (high mood) and hypo-mania (low mood); while the post-partum type refers to depression, which occurs after childbirth in women. The symptoms include insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite and difficulty in bonding with the baby. Pregnancy is truly a challenging experience for the woman. Consequently, not every prospective mother finishes the term in good health. Some do, while others may suffer physical, spiritual or psychological distress.
The symptoms of clinical depression include the following; feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness and sorrow. Others are; loss of interest in normal activities such as, eating, sexual intimacy, sports and games, insomnia, or slumbering, exhaustion, feelings of helplessness, restlessness and anxiety.
Depression is also marked by frustration, anger and irritability, somatic problems like headache, back and joint pains and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts may dominate the mind of the patient.
What are the causes of depression? What factors predispose people to depression? Research and experiential evidence show that major loses in life may predispose people to depression. Like in the case of Ben, mentioned earlier, the loss of his supportive father, as well as the termination of his intimacy with Tomi, the woman he loved, contributed significantly to the onset of depression. Loss of loved ones or precious treasures may create the right atmosphere for depression to set in.
CONSEQUENTLY, our minds should be turned towards many Nigerians who have lost their loved ones due to diverse vicissitudes of life in this season. The harsh economic realities of this season, the developmental apathetic nature of modern man, the increase in natural disasters coupled with the onset of new chronic and terminal sicknesses, as well as the terrorist agenda of massive destruction of human lives make this season a conducive period for both the onset and increase of depressive disorders. How are our fellow citizens coping? How are they undergoing the mourning process?
A dispassionate observation of the times and seasons we live in today reveals that it is akin to doom’s day. A few years back, the renowned Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, classified this generation as a wasted one. Ironically today, both younger and older generations are hooked and hemmed in, in a catalytic catastrophy. We are besieged by deep mental darkness, benumed by human wickedness and bombarded by unbridled bestiality. The result?
One significant consequence of this low living among us today is the onset and multiplication of psychological problems. To add insult to injury, because of our primitive and primordial phobia for ostracism in the issue of psychological problems, many Africans, nay Nigerians like the proverbial Ostrich attempt to hide their psychological disorders. In many instances, before these cases are discovered, the disorders have reached advanced stages, which may end up as chronic or terminal. This is the reason one thinks that C.S. Lewis was right when he said: “The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say, ‘my tooth is aching than my heart is broken’.” Those who refuse to reveal their psychological problems end up endangering themselves more than those who do.
Chronic and or terminal sickness is another cause of depression. Such chronic sicknesses like, HIV, cancer, coronavirus, diabetes milletus, arthritis, stroke and osteoporosis may be so challenging that the patient further falls victim to clinical depression.
Furthermore, traumatic experiences like, accidents, armed robbery attack, and serious operation have been implicated as possible causes of clinical depression. Sometimes in our African societies, neither the victims nor their families are knowledgeable about their need for psychotherapy. This type of ignorance compounds the health status of the patient. Many of them end up suffering both physiological and psychological disorders.
Other causes of depression include, major sexual dysfunctions like erectile failure and vaginismus. Think of the negative impact of such serious sexual dysfunctions in the lives of the victims. Sometimes, the matter is worsened by the wrong attitudes of the spouses or partners who view the patients as having no value at all. Very unfortunately, many quack doctors and therapists are emerging and claiming to have efficacious treatments for these sexual dysfunctions.
Substance abuse of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, alcohol and marijuana is common in our societies today. Both youths and adults are involved in this mess. Significantly, substance abuse is contributing to clinical depression. These drugs lead to mood swings and alteration of states of consciousness, which regularly indulged in, promote the onset of depression. Broadly divided into two groups; namely those that lead to hyper activities like cocaine and the early manifestation of alcohol ingestion as well as those that produce hypo activities such heroin and marijuana, these abused drugs enhance the onset and exacerbation of depression.
Age-related or life cycle events such as menopause in females and loss of physical strength in both genders may also lead to depression. When the organs of the ageing persons are growing weaker and their functionality are negatively affected, both males and females may begin to harbour feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Consider the reality of the depressive conditions some ageing people find themselves in, like; those who used to provide for their loved ones, are now dependants; those who used be active are now abandoned at home; those who used to exercise authority over others are now forced to submit to the leadership of others. If these low emotions aren’t handled well, it may lead to depression.
Erroneously, many people nurse an omnipotent idea about their health status. They erroneously think that they can never suffer any type of ill health and particularly, the psychological type. Take, for example, the issue of trauma, which has exposed many people to psychological disorders. A lady was attacked by hoodlums one evening while driving home from work and now she is so phobic that she can neither stay alone nor drive. A family after surviving the onslaught of kidnappers has relocated abroad and sworn never to return to the country. Another family whose daughter suffered severe sexual assault has become a group victim of panic anxiety. Yet, another whose parents were murdered on their way to a professional conference in their grief has become victims of various phobias.
In concluding this first part of this discourse, l recall the words of Pythagoras who said, ‘Concern should drive us into action and not into a depression. No man is free who cannot control himself’. The crucial question is, is a depressed patient in a position to control himself? How can one handle clinical depression? This will be the focus of the next discourse.
• Dr. Passy Amaraegbu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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