Depression Is Common

The World Health Organization currently ranks depression as one of the top three disabling conditions globally. For South Africans, the chance of suffering from a major depressive episode in one’s lifetime is more likely than developing diabetes, and women are at almost twice the risk of developing depression than men.

Symptoms To Look Out For

The core symptoms of depression are feeling sad, low or hopeless, and experiencing a loss of interest or pleasure in activities one usually enjoys. Other common symptoms include insomnia, fatigue, a decrease or increase in appetite and weight, poor concentration, lack of libido, social withdrawal, body aches or pains, irritability, and thoughts of death or dying. These symptoms continue for at least 2 weeks. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Mild depression (fewer symptoms that are also less debilitating) that continues for more than two years is known as dysthymia, and experiencing symptoms of depression predominately in the winter months is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Dysthymia, SAD and postnatal depression are all treated similarly to major depression.

Risks Of Untreated Depression

Depression may lift after 6-12 months without any medical treatment. However, the risks of living with untreated depression include suicide, difficulties in relationships and work, and possibly turning to alcohol or drugs (alcohol abuse can also cause depression). The tendency is to withdraw socially when one is depressed but getting support from friends and family at this time is important to help one cope. 

Good Treatment Is Available

There is still a lot of stigma surrounding depression. People fear judgment by others and possible side effects of medication. Depression is a disorder of brain chemicals for which there is good treatment, just as there is treatment for diabetes. There are numerous medications and forms of psychotherapy available, which work best when used in combination. 

Benefits Of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is the first-line treatment for mild depression and includes counselling and psychology, and is especially helpful when there is a life event, or events, that have triggered the depression. Psychotherapy is also useful for dealing with the effects of depression in one’s life, and learning new skills to help manage one’s depression and thought patterns.

Other Helpful Tips

Healthy sleep, exercise and eating practices are always a good place to start in managing any illness. The evidence for exercise as a treatment for depression, however, is not convincing. A Mediterranean diet high in olive oil may help prevent depression by increasing the amount of brain chemical called serotonin. Omega-3 supplements have been shown in one research study to improve the symptoms of depression (but not in people with depression and anxiety), and magnetic stimulation therapy of the brain has showed some promise in improving depression symptoms. 



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Receptionist - Elaine

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Dr Jennifer Crombie

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Dr Ruth Ward

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021 531 2717
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