Driven by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in India, the number of those who are living with depression has risen as much as 20% in India. For those who were already diagnosed with the condition, the current scenario has made disease management harder. For others, the condition is a new and even unheard of experience.
Even when so many of us know people living with depression, there is a lack of candour about mental health concerns – especially in certain demographics who are experiencing mental health concerns for the first time during the pandemic. If you look at Google Trends, it’s hard to believe that one of the most searched concerns is whether depression is even a real health concern. There is also a lot of prevalent social stigma about mental health concerns, that makes it harder to seek the help that people need.
While mental health concerns are a problem, the lack of awareness regarding depression and other mental health issues is even more problematic.
Managing pre-existing depression during COVID-19
If you struggle with depression and the ensuing symptoms of anxiety, isolation, and uncertainty, a pandemic could be an incredibly hard situation to deal with. This distressing time can make you feel alone and isolated. The first step to getting ahead of your mental health problems is to remind yourself that you’re not alone in this experience. There are dedicated mental health experts and activists who can help you cope. There are also support groups whose members help each other through their shared battle against depression.
While management may seem impossible, it actually is not. If you’re willing to reach out and seek help, there are therapies, medicines and coping mechanisms that can help.
For those who were already taking pills, COVID-19 has become a reason to reassess their dosage and medication. For some others, their anxiety has turned into depression. While strong and supportive relationships can help you handle your mental state, troubled relationships can worsen your condition.
The worst thing that you can do during the current times is turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms during the lockdown such as overeating, binge drinking, and drug abuse to self-medicate. While these tactics provide respite, it can worsen the symptoms over a longer period.
The reason for increasing depression diagnosis during COVID-19
According to a study done by the NCBI, the highest cases of depression and anxiety are seen in students, researchers and academicians who deal with higher external stressors. For students and young job seekers, the pandemic put a pause on their plans. From education and jobs to even basic rights, many are struggling due to COVID-19 which act as the aforementioned stressors. Nervousness, fear of infection, panic attacks, sleep disturbances, feeling of helplessness, uncertainty about the future, lack of financial freedom or potential loss of livelihood, can all become reasons to add to their worry.
Several online counselling services have seen a marked rise in the number of people reaching out for counselling. Hospitals are also providing teleconsultation services which are being utilized by thousands of patients since the lockdown started in April. Seeking out a certified expert can make the difference between finding a solution and living through your mental health concern blindly.
It’s not just young adults who are facing these concerns. The lack of structure and social life can even mentally affect children and teens. While depression manifests as separation anxiety in young children, older children and teens could struggle with their academics and become withdrawn.
There are also reports of how instances of depression are rising among older adults, who are facing mental health concerns for the first time. A major reason for this is attributed to information overload regarding the pandemic, as well as social distancing, and isolation. If you add in the fact that older adults with existing conditions are at higher risk for facing COVID-19 related fatalities, it is understandable how they could be worried. But taking a break from this endless onslaught of information and doing something productive can make a remarkable change in their mental health.
What are the coping mechanisms and professional services that can help
When it comes to mental health, a lot of people tend to shy away from seeking help. But owning up to your feelings or seeking help does not make you weak. In fact, being self-aware is the first step to getting the help that you need. For mild forms of depression, certainly recommended coping mechanisms can be used to boost one’s mood and to allay mild problems. But it is always best to seek professional help if possible.
Some of the most commonly recommended coping mechanisms are – keeping a busy schedule, distracting yourself with hobbies, eating well and staying hydrated, doing physical activities, giving back to the community and most importantly, practising gratitude and mindfulness. These are all great for increasing the general sense of wellbeing and addressing mild anxiety. But you should always keep an eye out for warning signs that indicate that you may need professional help.
The first indicator that you may need professional help is when your emotional state starts to affect your relationship, work or daily life. If you experience serious changes in your usual diet, sleep or exercise routines, it’s time to get the doctor’s help. Seeking help at this juncture will make it easier for your therapist to help you handle these aspects of your life better.
It should also be remembered that experiencing certain symptoms does mean that you have depression. Avoid self-diagnosing, and instead seek help from a professional who can help rule out hormonal imbalances, or thyroid problems that could be affecting your emotions. Your symptoms may also be the result of any other mental health condition that is weighing on you.
When the doctor sets out to start your treatment, the first step will be some form of talk therapy. This usually involves talking through your problems as well as personality assessment tests. The doctor will discuss the problems in detail and will help you unlearn any negative thought patterns or behaviours. They may also give your homework to track your feelings or write it out in journals. These activities can help understand any triggers that could be causing you problems. All this is a part of psychoeducation – an aspect of psychiatry where you’re taught how better to handle your emotions and help you understand your illness.
If your problems are more severe, doctors will prescribe medicines to stabilize your mood and address your depression. There are many variants of medicines that doctors prescribe based on your current health concerns, your symptoms, any drug interactions and potential side effects. This could range from Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which have lesser side effects to Tricyclic antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
Most doctors recommend a combination of psychotherapy and medication to address severe mental issues like clinical depression. During the pandemic, many online counselling facilities have become available so that you can consult with expert psychiatrists who can both write prescriptions and provide therapy sessions remotely. By making use of these, patients across ages can seek the help they need to learn more about their conditions and get the help they need, no matter where they are.
Summing up the thoughts of depression during COVID-19
With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, the number of people being diagnosed with depression is also continuing to rise. This is not bound to just a particular set of people but is affecting across age and gender. From children to elders, a multitude of reasons is causing them to develop depression. But the biggest culprit that prevents them from seeking the help they need is lack of awareness. But there are several resources out there that can educate them and empower them to seek the help they need.
There are also remote consultation services that provide psychotherapy, access to expert psychiatrists and a chance to address your issues. Medication and therapy for depression is not something to shy away from. Getting the help you need in time can go a long way in ensuring good mental health and preventing severe cases of untreated diagnosis.
With the help of these, depression patients can track their moods, address their problems and live a full life.
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