Depression Disorder Symptoms and Prevention
Nyaguthii has struggled to engage meaningfully in any activities for school or pleasure over the last month. She used to be a highly energetic person, always looking to meet with her friends and extremely gregarious. Similarly, in school, she was always the first person in the class, full of brightness and energy. She would always apply herself fully to her work and people knew her for her strong commitment to work. Over the last month however, Nyaguthii has lost all interest in social engagements. School was previously a key part of her day, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has shut down and sent all students home. Without this source of activity and purpose, Nyaguthii feels helpless, and has lost all her interest in the major things that used to excite her.
Being stuck in the house, Nyaguthii struggles maintain her normal lifestyle, both in terms of focus and in terms of her rhythm. She struggles to get out of bed, and has no interest in studying or in meet-ups with her friends, despite the fact that they were her principal source of fun in the past. Nyaguthii barely eats anything these days, instead focusing on watching series from her laptop in bed. While previously she was full of energy and freshness, today Nyaguthii is withdrawn and silent, preferring to spend the whole day indoors without talking to anyone.
During this COVID-19 period, several things could have triggered a feeling of sadness or hopelessness. A loss of income, postponing or cessation of your plans and ambitions or even a change family dynamics or income. Feeling low emotionally or being moody because of these factors is not necessarily a depression diagnosis.
Understanding depression will help you know when something is wrong in your life or in a friend’s life. A review of the facts we know about depression is helpful in knowing how to achieve this success, beginning with the symptoms of the condition.
These symptoms may occur several times in a day, nearly every day and may or may not include:
- Loss of interest in normal activities previously enjoyed such as hobbies, sports, work, or school
- Being overwhelmed with sadness but being unable to find the trigger
- Loss of appetite or an increased appetite that may or may not express itself through sudden weight gain or loss
- Fatigue and loss of energy so even small tasks take added effort
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Suicidal thoughts and ideation, whether with a plan or not
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Uncontrollable crying without reason
- Insomnia (an inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
Mayo Clinic warns that there are a few other symptoms to watch out for in teenagers and young adults. Symptoms may include sadness, feeling negative and worthless, poor performance or poor attendance at school, feeling misunderstood and excessive sensitivity, misuse of recreational drugs or alcohol, and self-harm.
For many people struggling with depression their symptoms will cause problems in their day-to-day lives. Catherine Muriithi a counselling psychologist and co-founder of Nsikize says that “the sadness we feel when we have lost someone is normal.” She cautions that “what we should be watchful for is five or more symptoms that persist for more than two weeks.” Edna Chawia, also of Nsikize adds that “on their own feeling like being anxious, unable to sleep, moody or feeling low are normal human responses. But once you are displaying several symptoms then there is cause for caution.” If the symptoms are affecting your functionality at school, work or at home then you are probably depressed and should seek help from a counseling psychologist.
Prevention of Depression
If you are displaying some of these symptoms or know some who is, here are a few things to help cope.
Today’s young person has limited in-person interactions instead relying on surface-level social media. Social interaction is about the intentional relationships you maintain. Edna says that it is important to have people around you who can “draw you out and call you out” of a dark place.
Having people around you who notice when your behavior or patterns change is good for your mental health. It also helps to be able to talk and be open about what it is that is causing you to feel depressed.
Think of self-awareness like your personal check engine light. You do not need to go to a mechanic to know when a car engine has an issue – the warning light will go on once there is an issue. In the same way it is important to be aware of our mental and emotional states. List down all the things in your life that might be causing you to have depressive feelings. Some examples may be:
- COVID-19 has pushed my graduation, and entry into the job market
- Do not have enough money for school fees
- Both my parents are out work and we have had to move to a new house
- I am afraid of COVID-19 and death
- Because of COVID-19 and the effect of the pandemic on business there are few available jobs in the job market
Determine what is within your control and what is not within your control. You will need to figure out how to cope with the consequences and be at peace with the reality of your current limitations. Another way of developing self-awareness is journaling writing about experiences that have played a role in how you feel or think.
Seek Help Early
If you are overwhelmed or can sense that you are severely depressed then seek help. If you would like to talk to a professional but you are afraid and not sure as to how it will go, start of by making an anonymous call. Nsikize have a 24-hour hotline (0900 620 800) that only charges you 7 shillings per minute. For 20 minutes you will spend KES 140 and will be able to find some form of release.
This is a good and simple start to helping you ease into the idea of counselling. If you feel you need more time with a professional, they have affordable but professional chat and in person counselling services. Remember a conversation with a professional counsellor not only helps increase your quality of life, but it also helps you cope with day to day challenges but could also save a life.
For more tips on how to prevent anxiety, read our mental toughness article here.