Chronic diseases


Depression - When sadness and anguish take hold of us

Chronic diseases

Depression is a mental illness that can affect people of any age and social class. It is characterized by feelings of anguish and deep sadness that cannot be managed and that have a great impact on the patient's ability to perform daily life tasks. In the most severe forms, it can have devastating consequences, which can lead to suicide.

WHO data estimates that more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression.

According to INE, in 2019, more than 700 thousand Portuguese (> 15 years) had depressive symptoms. 70% of these cases are related to the female gender, with the elderly population being the most affected.

It is thus essential to know how to identify the symptoms of this mental illness and understand when to seek help. Do not mistake temporary sadness (which usually arises as a result of an event) for depression (which is persistent and disabling).

Depression is a mental illness that can be treated with drugs and psychotherapy that greatly improve the quality of life for patients. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about this.

Depression in the elderly
Depression in the elderly

What symptoms can indicate that I suffer from depression?

If you have any of these symptoms and if they appear almost every day for more than two weeks, talk to a healthcare professional.

We all go through occasional moments of sadness, but when that sadness persists over time and interferes with our ability to carry out our daily activities and relate to others, then we must seek help and not underestimate the signs.

  • Sadness for no reason;
  • Desire to cry for no reason;
  • Loss of interest in activities that gave you pleasure;
  • Changes in appetite;
  • Extreme tiredness, exhaustion:
  • Difficulty in sleeping or desire to sleep all day;
  • Indecision and reduced concentration;
  • Restlessness, anxiety, anguish;
  • Feelings of worthlessness and constant self-criticism;
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Exhaustion and desire to cry for no reason
Exhaustion and desire to cry for no reason

Causes of depression

Depression results from a chemical imbalance in our brain in which neurotransmitters, responsible for regulating our mood, are involved. The following causes should be considered:

  • Genetic predisposition;
  • Trauma (death of someone close, unemployment, divorce, bullying, illness ...);
  • Personality characteristics (low self-esteem, pessimism);
  • Hormonal changes (women are the most affected, suffering two times more depression than men; postpartum depression is a good example);
  • Adverse effects of drugs, substance abuse.

Asking for medical help in depression
Asking for medical help in depression

Treatment of depression

Your doctor will indicate the most appropriate treatment for you, using pharmacological therapy (antidepressants), psychotherapy or a combination of these two.

However, the patient has to do his part so that it is possible to overcome the disease. Therefore, the following recommendations should be considered:

  • Always take the prescribed medication on time, do not interrupt the treatment, or change it without your doctor's indication, as you will be compromising its success;
  • Practice physical activity;
  • Avoid isolation and look for activities that give you pleasure;
  • Adopt regular sleep schedules;
  • Have a healthy diet;
  • Talk about how you feel with someone (friends, family).

Understanding what depression is and realizing that this mental illness can be prevented and treated, can help demystify a serious social problem that must be addressed without prejudice and lead to more people seeking help.

Friend or family member with depression symptoms
Friend or family member with depression symptoms

If you know a friend or a family member with depression symptoms:

  • Be present in that person's life (through visits, phone calls…);
  • Be a good listener and be attentive;
  • Organise activities that give pleasure to that family member/friend;
  • Read more on the subject;
  • Encourage him to seek help and always be available to help him/her making an appointment;
  • Look for support services (see the useful links that we leave here);


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