Friday, 30 November 2012

Depression: Should I See A Doctor?

In life, it is not uncommon to be down and out especially if you have experienced an upsetting event. Clinical depression however, is a separate entity whereby the mood is low for more than two weeks accompanied by various other symptoms (see here). Clinical depression is a medical condition that requires treatment.

Why see a Doctor for Depression?

Many a times, people feel that they are strong enough to will themselves out of depression. Despite wanting to get away from everything, those with depression often soldier on with work and social commitments. In front of friends and family, they put up a strong front as if nothing is wrong. Sometimes in milder cases, the individual may recover shortly but in many cases, without help, the depression and ability to cope will worsen. This results in a vicious cycle.

Physical Assessment
In the assessment of depression, the doctor or psychiatrist will also perform a physical examination and sometimes blood tests to make sure that the low mood is not caused by medical problems such as hypothyroidism.

Suicide Assessment
The psychiatrist is also the most qualified person to perform a suicide assessment. If your friend of love one has depression, there is a risk that he or she may harbour suicide thoughts and may act on them in the future. A suicide risk assessment will help identify individuals at high risk of completing suicide so that immediate help and treatment can be performed.

Brain Changes in Depression
One cannot simply will away depression. It is not due to moral deficits or weakness in personality. It has a biological basis. In depression, actual structural changes of the brain occurs. Depression is associated with changes in metabolism and blood flow in the brain. Medication can protect the brain from these damages and potentially reverse these changes.

Treatment of Depression
Depression is very treatable. 70-85% of sufferers respond to medications. There really is no need to suffer the sleepless nights, endless guilt feelings and hopelessness. In addition to medication and psychological treatment, psychiatrist will advise their patients about practical steps to take to improve their mood. Watch this space for more advice about depression.