What you need to know about depression

Posted at 04/24/12 6:16 PM

MANILA, Philippines – It is normal for people to have a bad day. But if feelings of sadness last for more than two weeks, it may lead to clinical depression.

Dr. Lou Querubin, an attending psychiatrist at The Medical City in Pasig City, earlier said that another warning sign that a person may be entering depression is a significant change in his or her “level of function.”

For instance, if a person used to perform well in school and suddenly flunks in class, he or she may need extra care and attention.

Contrary to what most Filipinos say, clinical depression is a disorder that cuts across socioeconomic classes. It affects over 100 million people worldwide and is among the leading causes of disability.

At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.

Just last month, a seaman suffering from depression ended his life in San Pedro, Laguna. The victim, identified, as 40-year-old Jose Mari Peña shot himself in the head due to family problems.

Anna Rodriguez-Dela Cruz, head of the News Digital Media department of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs, shared that her late husband, Beau, also suffered from depression.

ABS-CBNnews.com is the online news unit of ABS-CBN.

“He loved life. Had he not been struck blind by this depression, he would have been with us traveling to new places or finding beauty in places already seen and rediscovered,” Rodriguez-Dela Cruz said in her eulogy.

She hopes that people will be more vigilant of the signs and symptoms of depression as these may be lethal if left untreated.

What the studies say

Aside from serious personal and work problems, studies have shown that a number of factors may increase the risk of depression.

Here are some of them:

- A Spanish study published in the United States in January 2011 showed that eating junk food raises the risk of depression. It said that higher consumption of fats present in industrially produced pastries and fast food presented up to 48% increase in the risk of depression compared to those who did not consume these fats. Meanwhile, products high in omega-3 fatty acids such as olive oil are said to fight the risk of mental illness.

- A study published in the journal Pediatrics in January 2011 showed that spending more than two hours daily on the Internet is tied to depression among teenagers. Those who spent no time online are also at risk, added the study, which did not explain how Internet use is linked to depression.

- Findings published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in November 2011 showed that too much television and too little exercise are also linked to depression. It suggested that older women who exercised for 90 minutes or more each day were 20% less likely to be depressed compared to those who exercised for 10 minutes or less a day. Those who watched TV for more than three hours a day, meanwhile, were found to be 13% more likely to be diagnosed with depression.

- In a study published in August 2011, scientists in Britain found that childhood abuse has a significant impact on depression. They said those who had stressful or abusive childhoods were twice as likely as those who had normal lives to develop persistent or recurrent depression.

- Researchers at the University of Michigan suggested in a study released in February 2011 that genes are linked to depression. They said those who produce lower amounts of the brain molecule neuropeptide Y, which regulates appetite and stress, are at higher risk of severe depression.

How to get out of depression

Querubin said in an earlier interview that people who have slipped into clinical depression are usually asked to undergo medication or consultations with a psychiatrist.

Querubin also suggested these five ways to prevent sadness and stress from turning into a clinical depression.

Connect with people and animals. Find support from family, loved ones and friends. Local studies showed that even having pets can help overcome sadness and depression.

Find ways to feel good about yourself. Consciously do something that can make you feel good. Get a new haircut, polish your nails, or get enough sleep.

Balance your life. Find time to do something else other than work or school.

Get some sun. Go out and exercise, or at the very least, look out the window once in a while.

Eat well. Stay away from “anxiety-laden” food such as preserved meats, canned goods, hams and sausages. The salt content in these products is bad for the body. Instead, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables.

The power of friends

Singer Yeng Constantino attests to the power of friends and relationships when it comes to overcoming depression.

In an interview last year, Constantino said her friends, including actors Piolo Pascual and Sam Milby, helped her go on with her life again.

The singer earlier admitted that she entered into depression when her career was not going the way she envisioned it.

“Sobrang tiwala ‘tong mga kaibigan ko sa akin, parang ayaw ko sila biguin. Ipu-push ko ang sarili ko para sa mga taong nagtitiwala sa akin,” she said.

A cup of coffee a day...

Another study, meanwhile, showed that drinking coffee may help women fight depression.

US researchers measured coffee consumption based on data on 50,000 women for 14 years and found that those who drank four cups of coffee a day are 20% less likely to get depressed.