I feel sad more often these days. Is this normal?

Sadness is one of the most common and natural human emotions and is something that will ultimately help us appreciate our happy times. Social distancing, isolation and extreme changes in daily life can make one feel more sad than usual. Feelings of fear, sadness and uncertainty are normal during a pandemic. Usually, sadness is temporary and fades with time. If you continue to feel sad to a point that it disrupts your daily life, it is time to seek professional help.

Being proactive about your mental health can help to keep both your mind and body strong.

How do I know whether I am sad or I am really depressed?

Sadness and depression are not the same things. Sadness is a normal response to tough times whereas depression is a serious and treatable illness.

Depression is a serious condition that negatively affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. You might feel hopeless, unable to concentrate, sleep and appetite pattern are visibly disturbed etc. You also need to check whether it interferes with your ability to experience or anticipate pleasure, and daily functioning is significantly interrupted. In case of severe depression, symptoms can last for weeks, months or even years if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of depression?

The following are symptoms of depression:

  • Feelings of sadness or emptiness.
  • A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that had been pleasurable previously.
  • Disturbances in falling asleep or sleeping too much.
  • Restlessness or irritability.
  • Feelings of anxiety.
  • Tired, sluggish, and having low energy most days.
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless.
  • Experiencing problems with thinking, focus, concentration, creativity, and the ability to make decisions on most days.
  • Increased or decreased appetite.
  • Weight gain or weight loss.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.
How is depression diagnosed and treated?

Symptoms caused by major depression can vary from person to person. There are no physical tests for depression, but some blood tests may be required to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms. Diagnosis is reached following a detailed discussion with a trained professional.

It's a misconception that depression is not treatable. Medications and/or psychological interventions are highly effective for most people with depression. Anti-depressant will help patients with moderate to severe depressive and anxiety symptoms. Psychotherapy (talk therapies) and counseling can help with their thinking patterns and improve their coping skills so that they are better equipped to deal with stress.

How do I help someone with depression during COVID-19?
  • If someone is in immediate danger of suicide or self-harm, please call Indian consulate’s helpdesk on 800 46342 right away.
  • If they are not in immediate danger but you become aware of their suicidal thoughts, inquire gently about their feelings, listen with empathy and let them know that you care.
  • Reassure them that it is normal to experience fear, sadness, or anxiety during difficult circumstances. Remind them that help is available, and point out available support systems like their family/friends/faith communities/ peer-support groups.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help. You can connect them with Healing Minds helpline on our toll-free number 800-MINDS (800 64637).
How can I help my wife who seems to be in depression following childbirth?

Adjusting to daily life after the birth of a baby is difficult as it is, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. Concerns about exposure to Covid-19, combined with physical distancing and decreased social support can worsen depression in women.

You can try the following steps to help them during this challenging phase:

  • You can provide practical assistance (e.g: Household chores).
  • Lending your ear can be therapeutic. Talk to her and allow her to vent her feelings.
  • Staying connected with friends and family via phone/video calls can be helpful.
  • Ensure she gets enough rest and sleep. Napping when baby naps, maintaining a consistent bedtime routine can be helpful.
  • Help her maintain good nutrition and stay hydrated, good physical health is important for emotional wellbeing.
  • Mild exercises and relaxation techniques help to improve mood, energy and sleep.
  • If symptoms of depression persist/worsen, seek professional help.
Can children have depression? How can we tell?

Teenagers and young adults are at higher risk for depression. If you believe you have a child who is at risk for depression, keep a close eye on them and seek help if necessary.

Basic manifestations of depressive disorders in children and adolescents are similar to those in adults but are related to typical concerns of children, such as academic work and play. Children may be unable to explain feelings or moods. Depression should be considered when previously well-performing children do poorly in academics, display withdrawn behaviour, or commit delinquent acts.

In some children with a depressive disorder, the predominant mood is irritability rather than sadness (an important difference between childhood and adult forms). The irritability associated with childhood depression may manifest as overactivity and aggressive behaviour.
In children with intellectual disability, depressive or other mood disorders may manifest as somatic symptoms and behavioural disturbances.

What can I do to support myself?
  • Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.
  • Recognize the things you can control. Take care of your body.
  • Take deep breaths, stretch, exercise and meditate.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Remain in contact with your family and friends and maintain healthy relationships.
  • Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member.
  • Build resilience and maintain a sense of hope & positive thinking.
  • Allow yourself life’s little pleasures such as listening to music, reading, etc.
  • A small act of altruism will help in improving your self-esteem. Check on the well-being of others, help people in need in the best way you can.
  • Laughing about the situation does not hurt anyone and shows that we are all in this together.
  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary phase and that this too shall pass.

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