Want to skip the evening gym session because you’re still reeling from a bad client presentation at work? Relax – the feeling will pass. After all, you’re probably just a little stressed out. But if you find a strange aversion towards all things connected to the gym and fitness (and the feeling won’t quit even after a fortnight has passed)), get on your guard quickly – because it could well be the oncomings of a rather serious condition that is medically referred to as depression.
As you can see, there’s a subtle – and yet a very clear – difference between stress and depression. Yet, we tend to talk about the two in the same breadth during our conversations (mostly done in whispers) at the office water cooler, the kitty party or on Facebook. It’s time, therefore, that we learnt exactly how the two differ.
Stress is a psychosomatic (meaning a blend of physical and ‘mental’ factors) reaction to life when things don’t go according to plan. Whether it’s a ‘crazy’ boss at the office, a child who flunked maths for the third time or the car breaking down just before the party, all of us have experienced some symptoms of stress at some point of time – and felt overwhelmed by it in various degrees.
So what does stress feel like? Well, some of the visible symptoms of stress are:
• Tendency to become angry
• Difficulty in concentrating and remembering
• Trouble catching sleep
• Upset stomach – such diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
• Aches, pains (including chest-pain) and rapid heartbeat
• Worrying thoughts
• Loss of appetite
• Eating disorders
• Low self-esteem
The symptoms of stress can be temporary or more prolonged depending on how we respond to it. It’s good to understand that a little stress can be good and act like a ‘high’, boosting your motivation, focus and productivity in life. However, if we can’t manage it well, stress can lead to long term harm to our health, and even lead to adverse medical conditions.
It’s important to note that stress isn’t an illness or a disorder. Left unchecked, however, it can gradually develop into one.
Depression is a deeper and more intense ‘condition’ as compared to stress. It is characterized by pronounced mood swings that can leave us ‘low and unhappy’ for long stretches of time (sometimes lasting upto months or even years), and can bring with it big behavioural changes. Indeed, depression is the fourth biggest cause of suffering in the world today, and is slated to rise up to second spot by 2020.
How can you recognize depression in yourself, a friend or a family member? Well, while detecting depression isn’t an exact science yet, there are certain tell-tale signs that could indicate that a person may be depressed.
Some of the common symptoms of depression are:
• Negative thoughts (like guilt, a feeling of being ‘down and out’, de-motivation, feelings of worthless-ness and inadequacy, and so on)
• Loss of interest in day to day activities such as eating
• Loss of interest from even favourite hobbies & pursuits like movie-watching, sports & socializing
• Slowed speech, thinking and body movements
• A tendency to withdraw from the company of people
• A feeling of restlessness
• Fits of rage and anger
• Inability to sleep
• Loss of energy
• Inability to take decisions
• Loss of memory and concentration
• A feeling of exhaustion, even during sleep
• Unexplained pain in various parts of the body
• Alcohol and drug abuse
• Suicidal tendencies
From difficult experiences (such as the loss of a loved one, consistent bullying in school or the workplace, sexual abuse or coping with change like marriage or retirement) to repressed emotions to hormones to genetics to alcohol abuse to certain diseases to cognitive disorders (the term ‘cognitive’ means anything that is related to thinking and the mind), there can be several factors why one may experience depression. In certain cases, when regular stress is left untreated, it can lead to recurring anxiety, which is also a kind of depression.
Clinical depression is a severe form of depression – it is also called major depression or major depressive disorder. It is interesting to note that women are almost twice as vulnerable to major or clinical depression as men are. Menstruation, miscarriage, menopause, puberty (and the hormonal changes it brings) and pregnancy may make the condition worse for women. Major or clinical depression can be serious illness, but there is cure. Depending on the severity of symptoms, the patient will be recommended medication by a doctor or a psychiatrist.
Whether you are under stress or battling depression, the first step to healing is often the mere act of acceptance. Many people live in a state of denial which can be self-defeating and worsen the situation, so it’s important to step out and acknowledge – to yourself – that you are, indeed, a victim of depression. This will also alert you to the next attack when (sometimes, before) it happens, and help you deal with it a little better. Once you have crossed this important bridge, it’s vital to go for treatment – and as soon as you can. It is advisable to skip the self-help routine and home remedies and seek professional help if you don’t experience relief immediately, or feel that the situation is gradually going out of your hands.
Depression can be organic in nature, too. This means that it can be triggered from certain imbalances in the body – such as a deficiency of Vitamin B12, diseases like pancreatic cancer or diseases connected with collagen (such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus and others) – amongst other cases. A blood test can be an effective first step in detecting depression at an early stage, something that can go a long way in treating it more effectively. House of Diagnostics offers a suite of affordable and quick tests for those fighting stress and depression at various stages and levels.
You can book a Test for yourself – or someone else who needs help – in just a few clicks here
Depression is nothing to get depressed about.
Be it medication, counselling (where you may have to take a ‘Depression Test’), therapy (such as CBT or Cognition Behavioral Therapy), rest & relaxation, a vacation or change of scene, self-help groups, socializing with close friends or quitting bad habits like alcohol, there are various ‘doors’ available to get out of both stress and depression, and get on the road to happiness again.
That alone is reason to feel better, isn’t it?
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