Fifteen-year old Inaya Khan* was a brilliant, academic driven student, who always aced the performance list in class. However, just as her grades started to suffer & as she adopted a negative persona, that left her family & friends in complete bewilderment.
Khan’s mother overlooked it, considering this to be a phase every child went through; after all, it is very usual for adolescents to experience “the blues” and timeless mood swings.
Whereas, Khan during this phase was having a challenging time to come to terms with her conflicting interests – This is the time when there were multifarious emotional, physical & psychological changes one is prone to.
The low-spirited girl, Khan, after months of suffering from an emotional hunch, and being unable to concentrate on her activities, began to consider depression as a possible reason.
She discovered the root cause just as she traced back her feelings to the time when her grandfather passed away, leaving her alone, amongst a family which favored her brothers over her. The realization that she was “depressed” cultivated a feeling of deep sorrow, making her question her very own existence – “Why me?”
Khan’s story is a story many teenagers can relate to, specially those who have no one to confide in, which explains why they choose to cage their emotions and suffer in silence and reticence.
“People think depression is sadness, crying or dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again.”
But what exactly is depression?
Depression is a medical illness, triggered due to a couple of factors that lead to certain mental disorders regardless of a individual’s age. It is a state of emotional wars, that if prolonged, might end up having adverse effects too.
According to WHO, Pakistan is on 7th rank in the list of depressive disorder in world.
Doctor Tania Nadeem, a psychiatrist at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), says teenagers suffer from major depressive disorders which can range from mild to severe levels. She addresses the possible impacts of being a victim to it, some of which are as follows:
- Results in lack of concentration
- Academic decline
- Reclusive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
- Use of drugs
How do you know it’s depression?
Here are a few factors that might add to your knowledge:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. You don’t care anymore about former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
- Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
- Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.
- Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, you become short-tempered, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
- Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports – All that becomes a threat to you!
- Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
- Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and even stomach ache.
What can be done?
Mr. Nadeem from AKUH voices his opinion saying that depression should be treated in a comprehensive fashion; mild or severe, regardless. The therapy not just involves the victim, but also the internal and external environment one is exposed to. If you know someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, you can help them.
Likewise, Doctor Qureshi says:
“Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the most commonly prescribed drug for depressive disorders, ease symptoms of moderate to severe depression and are relatively safer and typically cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants,” she explains, adding that medicines must be taken adequately – too many or too little are both not good.
*Names have been changed to conceal identity