When people think of debilitating chronic illnesses, heart disease or diabetes will normally spring to mind. But did you know that depression will overtake heart disease as the number-one leading cause of disability by 2020.
Scientists believe depression is caused by a combination of biological, genetic, psychological and environmental factors. In countries like the UAE with a large expat population, the psychological and environmental factors are particularly significant. The lack of a typical family support system as well as financial pressures can exacerbate an existing mood disorder.
There is some positive news though – for one, depression is not stigmatized like it once was. People now realise it is not a character flaw or a mood someone can ‘snap out of’. When someone is clinically depressed, there depression has an impact on their quality of life and ability to function. There is no need to live with this though – depression can be treated through therapy and, if necessary, medication. Medication helps 70% of people, but may require a period of adjusting the dose.
If you have been experiencing any of the following symptoms for two weeks or more, you should seek out a psychiatrist or psychologist for an assessment.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms
The best outcome is achieved when consulting a psychologist (talk therapy) or a psychiatrist (medication). Taking care of your gut health, good nutrition and good sleep guarantees in most cases that you will be off the medication in a few months.
Don’t keep quiet; there is no shame in asking for help, and talking to trusted friends or a professional can have a huge impact on your enjoyment of life.
Dr Kareen Bekhazi practices in Dubai and is head of Novomed BrainMax’s Psychology Department and holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of California. She has completed extensive training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) from the Beck Institute in the USA, with a focus on depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders and personality disorders. She is also trained in newer modalities such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Dr Kareen has many professional interests and treats a variety of mental disorders.