Optimind Clinic

Dr Gordon Wong, psychiatrist    

How to Protect Ourselves from Depression?

by Dr Gordon Wong, Specialist in Psychiatry

MBBS (HK), MRCPsych, FHKCPsych, FHKAM (Psychiatry), MSocSc (Couns)(South Australia), DCPsyc RCP&S (Irel), DFM (HKCFP)

 

As stigma towards depression diminishes, people with depression get increasingly vocal about they challenges they face. People also often complain that they feel depressed, in a general sense of low mood, rather than the technical definition of depression. In this article, I would like to explore what depression really is, and what can be done to combat depression.

Depression is defined as experiencing pervasive low mood for two weeks or more, with a loss of enjoyment (called anhedonia) and a loss of energy. Sleep becomes disturbed, which may present as difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up particularly early. Appetite is often decreased, with weight loss, but in a small number of cases the appetite paradoxically increases. Concentration is impaired, and the mind may become rather blank.

Depression often leads to pessimistic thoughts about the self, the world and the future. Self esteem is shrunken, and the person may become caught up in ideas of being useless, worthless and helpless. In severe cases, the person may even have thoughts or even plans to kill self, with some of them sadly actually doing so.

Depression is also closely linked to anxiety. Many depressed people feel anxious as well, and may also have symptoms such as palpitation, tremor, shortness of breath and numbness of limbs.

As we can see, depression is not just “feeling low”, but a cluster of symptoms that affect many aspects of our daily life. Fortunately, there are ways to help protect against depression.

First, take good care of yourself by sleeping well and eating well. Sleep helps the body to recover from the daily stress, and having regular sleeping hours help the body to fall asleep easily. Eating regular meals of nutritious food is also important, as our bodies need the nutrients to stay healthy.

Another way to help is to let go of unhelpful thoughts. We have the tendency to hang on to unhelpful thoughts, thinking that by thinking more, we can think our way out of an adverse situation. By ruminating, we are allowing these thoughts to continue undermining their mood, self confidence and self esteem. Thoughts are just like mosquito bites, if you do not pay attention to them, they disappear. Thoughts come and go, unless you hang on to them by ruminating them.

If the general measures have less than satisfactory results, psychiatrists can help by prescribing medication, or by psychotherapy, or a combination of both. There are many types of psychotherapies that are scientifically proven to be effective, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy and hypnotherapy.

These are just some of the ways to get out of depression and get back into life. Consult a professional for advice if you find yourself or people around you having symptoms of depression.