What you need to know about depression


Posted at Aug 14 2014 01:26 PM | Updated as of Aug 15 2014 04:03 AM

Actor-comedian Robin Williams struggled with depression before ending his life on Monday (Tuesday in Manila)

MANILA – While it is a serious medical condition, depression can be cured and treated, a psychiatrist said.

According to St. Luke’s Medical Center psychiatrist Bernadette Manalo-Arcena, the key to battling depression is observing the signs and knowing when to seek medical help.

“When you see that you’re not functioning anymore, you don’t see happiness in your life, or if you feel that you are not your normal self anymore, you may be depressed,” Manalo-Arcena said in an interview on “[email protected]” on Thursday.

“Depression can happen to anyone. Wala siyang pinipili, even if you’re on top of the world. Actually, mahirap ‘yun kasi a lot of expectations are coming from other people. There’s a lot of pressure,” she added.

Manalo-Arcena’s interview comes after reports confirmed that actor-comedian Robin Williams, who died on Monday (Tuesday in Manila), hanged himself with a belt in his home after he had sought treatment for depression.

She said death by depression should not happen to anyone “because there is a solution.”

Here are some things that you need to know about depression, as mentioned by Manalo-Arcena during the interview:

1. Sadness is different from depression

A person occasionally gets sad over certain things – from family and relationship problems to money woes and work issues – and this is normal, Manalo-Arcena said.

But if the person has been experiencing sadness for two straight weeks – meaning no “happy moments” in between – it’s time to take a second look as this may already mean depression.

“It’s not like I’m happy now and I’m sad later on. It’s continuous. Oras-oras, araw-araw, you are sad,” she said.

The sadness will eventually show on a person’s physical appearance, mainly in the form of weight loss and lethargy.

“You have no appetite, you always feel remorse or guilt about doing anything,” she said. “The things that used to matter to you are not important to you anymore.”

2. If you’re thinking about wanting to die, you may be depressed

Unless it is said purely as a joke and it is not mentioned consistently, a remark about wanting to die should be considered as a depression red flag, according to Manalo-Arcena.

“The thought and idea of wanting to hurt yourself, that is already a symptom of being depressed,” she said. “No need to wait for an attempt… A person saying that he wanted to die is [more than enough]. Even if it is situational and is not mentioned again.”

When asked about those who have committed suicide despite appearing happy in the company of their friends and family, Manalo-Arcena said: “There are people who would silently think about suicide and nobody knew about it. But they would do their normal chores, they would say hi to you. Tapos maya-maya, you would here that she died.”

3. What usually causes depression

A lot of factors may come into play when it comes to depression, but Manalo-Arcena mentioned some common causes based on her experience with patients.

“It could be genetics. It could be the use of alcohol, it could be the use of substance. It could be a chemical problem – very low serotonin can lead to anxiety and being depressed,” she said.

When asked about the issues that depressed people often struggle with, Manalo-Arcena said: “Relationship issues is a big factor, as well as financial problems and problems with work.”

4. Nothing wrong with going to a psychiatrist

Manalo-Arcena admitted that one of the reasons why many people continue to suffer from the effects of depression – suicide included – is the stigma associated with visiting a psychiatrist for treatment.

She said this is not only evident in the Philippines but also in other countries.

“There’s a stigma associated with psychiatry. But I hope that it would be lessened because of the fact that incidents of depression are increasing,” she said.

Aside from treating medical conditions, psychiatry can also significantly help a person cope with life’s stresses, Manalo-Arcena added.

“You will learn more about yourself… You can be more functional. You can work and you can love again,” she said.