Depression describes a low mood state that is usually experienced when one suffers loss, failure, disappointment or hardship. It can affect a person from any social, cultural or economic background, with onset commonly between 20 to 40 years old. An estimated 5.8% of the Singapore suffers from depression.
There are many environmental and situational factors that can affect one’s mood. These are commonly related to relationship difficulties, financial problems or work stressors. Research has shown that depression may involve structural, functional and chemical changes in the brain. Depression can also be related to problems that arise during psychological development. Negative patterns of thinking and maladaptive thought processes are often present in depressed individuals.
Everyone will experience low mood at some point in time. However, when depression is intense, prolonged and debilitating, or it starts to affect social or occupational functioning, it becomes an illness that needs treatment. A psychiatric evaluation can diagnose depression. Laboratory tests may be carried out to rule out physical illnesses that may be causing depression.
Treatment usually involves medications, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Antidepressant medication can help lift the mood and alleviate other symptoms such as poor sleep and appetite. They are safe and generally well tolerated. Psychotherapy aims to address one’s negative thoughts or beliefs. It provides emotional support and enables patients to better understand and deal with their problems.