By Reon Janse van Rensburg
According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) depression is a whole-body disease that that involves your body, mood and thoughts. It influences the way in which you eat and sleep, the way in which you think about yourself and the way in which you think about other things. Depression is not the same as a temporary blue or bad mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that one can wish away. People with depression cannot simply change the way in which they think and then become better. Without treatment symptoms can last for weeks, months and even years. However, appropriate treatment can help most people suffering from depression.
Symptoms of depression
Not all those who are depressed experience the same symptoms. Some people only experience a few symptoms where others experience a lot more symptoms. The degree in which the symptoms are experienced also differ from person to person.
According to SADAG, symptoms of depression include the following:
- A constant sad or empty mood
- A loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that was once enjoyed
- Feelings of helplessness and pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and blaming oneself
- Insomnia or hypersomnia, waking up early in the morning or sleeping more than one should
- A loss of appetite and weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Reduced energy and tiredness/fatigue
- Increased use of alcohol and drugs (however, not a criterium for diagnosis)
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability, hostility
- Struggling to concentrate, remember and to make decisions
- Continuous physical symptoms that do not react to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
- Weakening of social relationships
What can you say to a person suffering from depression to encourage them?
According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), there are several ways in which one can react to people who are suffering from depression’s grievances and helplessness. Not only is it better to approach each situation in this way, but it also helps to cheer up those suffering from depression.
You can use the following examples provided by SADAG when talking to someone close to you suffering from depression:
“I am lonely.”
Don’t say: “No, you are not! I am sitting right here with you. Does my caring about you mean nothing to you?”
Do say: “I know that you are feeling alone right now. Is there anything I can do to help? I am only happy to be with you. Together we will get through this feeling of loneliness.”
“Why try? It is not worth living. There is no use in going on.”
Don’t say: “How can you think that? You have a good job and people who loves you. You have everything to live for.”
Do say: “I know that you might be feeling this way now, but I want you to know that you matter to me and to those who love you. Together we will get through this feeling of hopelessness.”
“I am dragging everyone down with me.”
Don’t say: “No, you are not! See how well I am! I had a great day today and besides that I am doing everything in the world to help you.”
Do say: “I know you might be feeling this way now, and yes, sometimes it is difficult for us both but remember, together we will get through this stage.”
“How would it be if I was not here anymore?”
Don’t say: “Don’t be silly! What’s wrong with you?”
Do say: “I will miss you terribly because to me you are very important. I want to grow old knowing that you are there. Together we will get through this.”
“I am replaceable.”
Don’t say: “If you felt better about yourself, you would not say such stupid things.”
Do say: “I know you are feeling worthless at this stage, but we will get through this.”
“Nothing I do is good enough. I will never amount to anything.”
Don’t say: “What are you saying? You are a highly respected (engineer) and a great (dad). You are blowing everything out of proportion.”
Do say: “I know it is upsetting if things do not work out the way you wanted it to – it is upsetting for me too! Feelings of failure is very painful, but we will get through it together.”
“For how long will I be feeling this way? It is as if I will never get better.”
Don’t say: “Come on! Nothing lasts forever – you know better than this.”
Do say: “I know it is terrifying to experience so much pain. Feelings come and go. Together we will get through it.”
If you need more information for yourself or a loved one, please phone SADAG on 011 262 6396 or 0800 567 567, or send an SMS to 31393. SADAG is open 7 days a week from 08:00 until 20:00. You can also visit their website at www.sadag.co.za for more information or help.
There is help available. Make use of it!
Additional Disorder Brochures – https://www.sadag.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9&Itemid=112