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 Psychological & Emotional Health

October 2010
Depression is Manly
Dr. Muthukrishnan Vedarethinam
Myth: More women, than men, are affected by depression.

If you go by the statistics, four times more women have depression, as compared to men. But then, that could be because of men’s relative unopenness to openly admit their private suffering. Depression occurs in both genders and all age groups, irrespective of their social status, religion, culture or ethnic background.

Mars & Venus
  • Men complain of physical inability, irritability and fatigue.
  • Women complain of more psychological symptoms like sad mood, helplessness, hopelessness, suicidal and guilty feelings.
  • Women have a higher number of attempted suicides, while men score in the number of completed suicides (cue joke about smart women).
  • Men have more number of co-morbid disorders like alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, irritability, anger, abusiveness and indulgence in overwork.
  • In their middle and old age, men have increasing number of physical ailments like diabetes, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, obesity and neurological illnesses.
  • If these physical illnesses are not effectively treated, they can leave men vulnerable - precipitating and perpetuating their depression.
  • On the other hand, depression, if not effectively treated, can worsen physical illnesses.
What is Depression?
Depression is a brain disorder. Those who are predisposed to it genetically and personality-wise, develop the various forms of it. Psychological stresses and/ or physical illnesses, adverse family/social/ emotional/work environment, can precipitate the condition.

Depression brings about adverse changes in the neurotransmitter system, which regulates feeling (emotions) and thinking (thoughts) in the brain, thus resulting in depressive illness. The treatment aims at resetting the affected neurotransmitter system in order, by way of drug and psychosocial therapies.

Three Forms of Depression
  • Major depression, where the depressive symptoms are of heightened intensity, associated with major suffering and impairment of functioning.
  • Dysthymia has a long duration (more than two years) of depressive illness, which has milder multiple depressive symptoms and a less disabling form.
  • Bipolar depression has cyclic periods of high and very low mood swings. This form is very severe and disabling, mostly.

At the Doctor’s
Have you or someone you know, been suffering from very low mood, persistently, over two weeks, with a disability in the usual work, family and personal sphere? They would do good to consult or to be brought to a mental health centre for diagnostic evaluation of depressive disorder.
  • Firstly, such persons would be evaluated for their physical conditions for choosing appropriate drugs or psychotherapy, depending upon on the severity of depression.
  • Several groups of drugs are available for treating depression. Serotonin re-uptake inhibitor group of drugs are now the choice for treatment, due to their low side-effects profile and suitability over all age groups in both men and women, on several forms of depression.
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy are best suited for correcting negative thinking and behaviour pattern associated with depression.
Are Your Depressed?
Psychological symptoms: Depressed mood, lack of interest, loss of energy, lack of concentration, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, suicidal thoughts, retardation, etc.
Biological symptoms: Changes in body weight, appetite, libido, sleep pattern, mood variation amenorrhoea (absence or suppression of normal menstrual flow) and constipation.

Dr. Muthukrishnan Vedarethinam is Consultant Psychiatrist at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai

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