There is a fine line that separates being stressed and being depressed, and often the crossover is so subtle, most people do not realise it. However, identifying the symptoms makes all the difference.
For Shweta Sharma, a teacher, it started with her falling sick for the first time in 12 years.
“I was very shocked to get sick ... All these years I had not even suffered common cold! I just had some weakness and morning anxieties. It was becoming difficult to cope up with the daily jobs,” she said. As a mother of two, Sharma was always active. However, she suddenly found herself unable to do much. “I had lost the hope of getting cured though I had no major health problem. Fear of illness had struck my mind,” she said of her glum ordeal. Sharma finally went to a psychologist when found no reprieve despite taking anxiety pills. “He (psychologist) told me to change my perception towards my problem. With his help and strong family support I recovered soon,” Sharma said.
If you’ve ever experienced similar feelings of despair for no apparent reason, you might be dealing with stress at your workplace or in your personal life but haven’t realised it yet. It may have become so natural to deal with pressure, you no longer consider it a problem. However, prolonged stress and worrying about insignificant issues could lead to depression in the long run.
In Sharma’s case, unable to lead her life normally depressed her. However, depression isn’t always caused by a specific reason.
Ankita Ghosh, a student, was in perfectly good company and doing well until she stopped feeling happy. “I had joined my new college, everything was fine. I was with bunch of good people. Yet I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t figure out the reason of my sadness. I started to feel depressed and lonely and it was becoming difficult to cope up with studies,” Ghosh said. She became suicidal though she recognised no particular problem in her life.
“Nothing gave me true happiness. After (receiving) counselling sessions, I got to know that I had developed the fear of change,” she said.
The typical symptoms of depression include helplessness, loss of energy, changes in weight, sadness, excessive sleep, etc. However, there are some that are not easily noticeable. In most cases, people are unaware of their depression or do not spot the signs in someone else.
“Everyone will reflect different symptoms of depression in different way,” said Dr Deepali Batra, clinical psychologist (director) at PALS. While some people cry a lot, not all of them are actually depressed and not every smiling face is of a happy person.
We list out some of the lesser known signs of depression.
1. Shopaholics and/or party animals: Strange but true! Excessive shopping or partying is just a way of escaping depression. “People, for the sake of denying the fact that they are depressed, do the exact opposite of what they feel,” said Dr Pulkit Sharma, a clinical psychologist at VIMHANS hospital. Shopping becomes a form of retail therapy and partying a temporary means to happiness. “As compared to a normal person, a depressed person will not derive lasting happiness from these activities,” said Dr Sharma. Some people who seek opportunities to socialise do so because they crave attention and feel lonely.
2. The perfectionist: Nothing less than perfect will do? People who are depressed usually have low self esteem, and a sense of perfection gives them transient happiness. “People tend to demand perfection to rise above in the eyes of others. (It) is so that they can prove themselves competent in front of others. This arouses feelings of self worth,” explained Dr Sharma. The feeling of confidence though, is temporary.
3. Internet addicts: Spending hours together on the internet, either playing games or on social media, feeds the loneliness of depressed people. The internet becomes a digital mate. Children often get addicted to this because parents don’t spend quality time with them, and they usually do not have friends. Dr Sharma says social media nourishes the craving for attention through comments on profile pictures, Facebook posts and so on. A common sign of this is a person who changes their profile picture often and constantly checks the number of “likes” and “comments” on it.
4. Constant guilt: Depressed people tend to blame themselves for everything, even when the situation is not related to them, said Dr Deepali Batra. This guilt can even extend to being apologetic for being born. People with this problem can become excessively introspective and hold themselves responsible for everything wrong in their past.
5. New addictions: A seeming well-adjusted person who develops a sudden addiction could be depressed. Sudden excessive eating, drinking, smoking, and other habits become a way of acting out. However, be careful: Addictions specifically do not pertain to depression; there can be other reasons as well.
6. Like dark corners: Dark or dimly lit rooms are usually comforting for grief stricken people. Light makes them feel exposed to their environment. A preference for dull colours, low enthusiasm and a generally gloomy take on life are indicative of depression. “Depressed people don’t like to dress up much; they like to sit in dark rooms and prefer staying at one place,” said Dr Batra. Such people also tend to feel safe in small, dark corners.
Dr Deepali Batra suggests some measure to overcome depression:
1. Change your thinking towards life. Distract yourself from negativity. Embrace and reiterate positive thoughts
2. Try restructuring your life. Plan your day
3. Go for a walk regularly
5. Share your feelings
6. Take professional help
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