Date
20 July 2018
In general, women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, although before puberty the risk is about the same for both sexes. Photo: Irais Esparza/Wikimedia Commons
In general, women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, although before puberty the risk is about the same for both sexes. Photo: Irais Esparza/Wikimedia Commons

The difference between feeling low and clinical depression

Living means facing all kinds of challenges and feeling all sorts of pressures. Everyone has their ups and downs.

Nowadays, people know more about mental illness, and they are more willing to seek medical help.

If you are in a bad mood or do not sleep well, you may sometimes be wondering whether you are suffering from depression.

How can we distinguish between normal emotions and clinical depression?

If you are sad due to some reasonable causes, which do not last for a long time and does not obviously affect your daily life, work, social ability or enjoyment, then it is probably a normal mood swing.

According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), patients with severe depression lose interest, within two weeks, in most of the activities and feel depressed or joyless. They also have other symptoms such as changes in sleeping habits, appetite, self-confidence, thoughts and the ability to concentrate.

All these symptoms appear most of the time and on most days within a span of two weeks. They cause great suffering to the patient and impede their work and social life.

Of course, such symptoms refer to serious cases. Other patients may still be able to function and have a normal social life, although with much more effort on their part.

In general, women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, although before puberty the risk is about the same for both sexes.

According to statistics, people aged between 25 and 44 have the highest rate of having depression. The prevalence rates range from 10 percent to 25 percent for women and 5 percent to 15 percent for men.

The average age of onset is 25 years old. And even if the symptoms are cured, the patient may still fall back into depression when stressed.

However, there are also cases in which the patient can maintain a healthy mind for a longer period if their depression is cured at an early stage.

Here are some important reminders:

1. It is normal to feel depressed but if it is more serious and prolonged than usual, it may be a symptom of mood disorder.

2. External factors, such as work pressures or loss of possession, or internal factors, such as the certain chemical imbalance in the brain, can cause the mood disorder.

3. If you do not treat the mood disorder accordingly, you may feel upset consistently and it will not fade naturally. This, in turn, may cause suffering and affect your social life.

4. If it is caused by certain chemicals in the brain, antidepressants can help set the chemical balance right and bring physical and mental comfort.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 23

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

JC/JC/CG

FHKAM (Psychiatry)

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