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The signs of depression and what to do next
The symptoms of depression can vary depending upon the individual, age and gender. Even if you can spot the symptoms in yourself, they may be difficult to spot in others, particular when the individual becomes adept at “putting on a brave face” and pretending to the world (and sometimes themselves) that everything is ok.
In men there may be feelings of persistent anger, short-temperedness or frustration. Women may feel sadness, emptiness and loneliness. Children and teens experiencing depression may feel anxiety, fatigue, anger and withdrawal.
There are a number of general signs counsellors and therapists look out for to make a diagnosis.
• Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping
• Irritability and restlessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once pleasurable, including sex
• Overeating or loss of appetite Persistent aches, pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment
• Persistent sadness, anxiousness or feelings of emptiness
• Thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details or making decisions
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
• Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
Getting help is important, because depression tends to worsen over time, and research has shown that the sooner people seek help, the better the long-term outcome.
If you’ve experienced any of the above symptoms continually for two to four weeks, or if they’re impacting your daily routines or relationships, it’s time to check in with a qualified medical practitioner or mental health professional.
What can you do if you are affected by the symptoms of depression
The first step to managing mental health is likely to be a visit to your GP. A full medical history can first be taken, in order to rule out and treat any physical disease or disorder that can cause symptoms of depression.
A full personal and mental health history of yourself and your family will also be done, including alcohol and drug usage habits. Your doctor will then ask about your symptoms, their duration and severity. “If you’ve experienced these symptoms in the past, the practitioner will want to know how they were treated”.
Treatment for depression
There are three main ways that depression is treated: by antidepressant medication, psychotherapy or by a combination of both. In Singapore, medication can only be prescribed by a qualified medical doctor or psychiatrist. Psychotherapy is carried out by qualified counsellors, psychologists or social workers, and by some psychiatrists.
When it comes to depression, your doctor or mental health professional will make a treatment recommendation; ultimately, though, you may choose the treatment plan that best fits your needs. There are exceptions to this, however.
If the patient is a child, his or her parents would decide the treatment plan. Another exception is where the individual is a danger to themselves and shown by the attending psychiatrist to be mentally unable to make decisions.
In Singapore, under the Mental Disorders & Treatment Act (MDTA), police are empowered to bring mentally ill persons to the Institute of Mental Health for assessment if they are found or believed to be acting in a manner that is dangerous to themselves or to others.
Seeking help should never be seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence; it is a sign of intelligence, strength and honesty.
If you can identify with the symptoms of depression, you may need to seek the support of a qualified mental health professional. Maria Luedeke of Aspire Counselling is a highly qualified counsellor who will be able to advise you not he right course of action.
Aspire Counselling can be contacted, or you can make a booking for an online or face to face appointment on http://aspirecounselling.net or alternatively by emailing Maria Luedeke at firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article which includes the specialist input of Maria Luedeke of Aspire Counselling first appeared in the January 2017 edition of Expat Living, Singapore.