Monday, March 14, 2011

What lies beneath: Don't let depression go unnoticed!

The city of Mumbai woke up, on Tuesday, to the horrifying news of a seemingly jolly 31-year-old chartered cccountant Nidhi Gupta plunging to death from the 19th floor of a Malad building along with her two children.

Gupta’s kin are as perplexed by her actions and this incident has brought to the fore how a severely depressed person could go unnoticed. In fact, a gregarious person is the first to fly under the radar for emotional distress.

While some people mask their unhappiness in colourful ways, it is crucial to identify suicidal tendencies. Psychiatrists Harish Shetty and Shalet Fernandes highlight signs of masked depression.

- Dress it up: At times a person going through a low phase may overdress for simple errands. A lot of effort is put into looking happy and presentable. This excessive play of dress-up is often accompanied by an overtly happy persona, excessive joking and impulsive shopping.

- Happy but irritable: Look out for signs that show they get upset about little things before laughing them off. The irritability, which would be justified, comes as a surprise to close friends and family. They are forgotten, however, since they are often succeeded by a lighter moment.

- Helping hands: Many extroverts cling to their friends and offer help during crisis. Though being with someone in a crisis is normal, when depressed, the helpful attitude becomes disproportionate. They may come up with unreasonably large-hearted gestures such as offering to quit their job to be by a friend’s side during his/her divorce. Or they may enforce ideas and cling to friends overwhelmingly, forcing them to go to a particular doctor, etc. This helps distract them from their personal issues and provide temporary meaning to their life.

- Bottle-friendly: It’s common for people to party or drink a lot more when they go through a slump. They look for opportunities to have a laugh and a good time. They may joke and intermittently share thoughts like, ‘life sucks big time’, or ‘you guys don’t call me often’. Usually there is no reason for this provocation. They also tend to stay later at parties than others or display bouts of anger and sadness after a night of drinking.

- The procrastinator: When a usually efficient person starts getting complacent and missing deadlines, it’s a red flag. Vague excuses for a dip in performance are handed out. These may even include blaming their loved ones.

- Internet blues: A student in her 20s suddenly began staying awake late into the night, chatting on the net. Her parents were livid. On examination it was found that this popular captain of the college volleyball team was clinically depressed. She used the internet to distract herself and keep awake.

- Denial mode: A medical practitioner continued working even though she was suffering from suicidal thoughts. “Duty is duty,” she said. She was sad, felt worthless and refused treatment until she was forced into it. Some people bury themselves in work so much that it's hard to tell that something is amiss.

- Work on it: If you have identified emotional distress within yourself, it’s important to work on accepting the reality and sharing it close ones.
Often, just sharing doesn’t rectify the underlying causes for depression. To aid the process, undergo a mental health screening and take the help of a psychiatrist.

Faced with someone who is resisting asking for help, you can try and break them out of their shell. Ask pointed existential questions about what makes them happy, or why they seem unhappy of late. Heartfelt questions can result in them breaking down. Gently encourage them to open up, seek help and express themselves. This will go a long way in them acknowledging their ailment.



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