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Friday, March 28, 2008

About Clinical Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder - 1

It all started for me when I was perhaps nineteen years old and I slipped past the television set in the living area of my parents’ house in Johor Baru, Malaysia. It was turned on to Channel NewsAsia, broadcasting a programme which was talking about some disease that was affecting more and more people statistically, worldwide, and in Asia. I read the symptoms of this disease, and my immediate thought was, “Hey, that sounds like me! That sounds like what I have!”

That sickness, which is an epidemic now, in Asia and the world, which kills about 15% of all who suffer from it, so it is possibly fatal: major depressive disorder, or clinical depression. And that was me. I realised those symptoms were me, all my life, as far as I can remember. So in other words, I have never been happy, until I started seeking medical help.
- Chiam Elaine, previously unpublished

For some reason, due to my level of empathy, or perhaps because I started to open up to people more, I started to uncover people around me who either wondered if they too were ill, or were sure they were definitely clinically depressed, either diagnosed or at the time untreated. It shocked me to realise there were so many people in my social sphere that were feeling at least a measure of the grief I had been feeling all my life.

So I decided to write this article about this grieving sickness which Winston Churchill called 'his black dog' of depression. Be it whether you are that person I uncovered recently, or the one who opened up to me, or a loved one of yours has suspected or diagnosed clinical depression - I hope this article helps in some way. I also hope that if you are clueless about the disease and you think it can be helped by 'positive thinking' and 'behaving yourself', then please read this, and follow the links I have placed within this article.

Clinical depression is not normal sadness. We all have times when we feel sad due to situations in our life. We feel sad if things may not go our way, but we usually get up and go eventually, after the problem is solved or after we have ranted about it with a friend. It may be harder, if someone in our life dies, but eventually, maybe years after, it gets easier. If we grew up abused, or witnessed too much of war and death, like troops returning from war often do, we might get depressed too. If you are a woman you probably have felt down before, maybe before your period (chocolate then suddenly seems to help), or after you have given birth. Or maybe you have a thyroid dysfunction. But all these illnesses are not the same as clinical depression.

There are other illnesses that exhibit similar traits to clinical depression. For example: eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse.

There are also other two other depressive disorders that are not exactly the same as major depressive disorder, such as, manic-depression (also known as bipolar disorder) and dysthymia.

I am being sweeping about these other illnesses because I want to focus on what I have, which is mainly moderate to severe major depressive disorder, coupled with generalised anxiety disorder.

If you suspect you might be depressed - maybe you really identify with what I write here, or you have been feeling sad or stressed for a long time now, or like I have just written, you feel your sadness is not normal sadness; or maybe you just want to make sure you have a clean bill of mental health. Please take this test now. (Remember this is not a medical diagnostic tool and you should still check with your medical professional if you would like a definitive assessment and treatment.)

In my next few posts, I will cover other aspects of my sickness, such as symptoms used by doctors to diagnose patients, or symptoms you may feel you are depressed like me. I will also write about medication.

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