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Depression is a common but often overlooked medical condition characterized by a depressed mood or loss of interest and pleasure for 2 weeks or longer.

It has symptoms that include: feelings of worthlessness or guilt, appetite changes, fatigue, problems with sleep, weight changes, difficulty concentrating, agitation, slowness and suicidal thoughts.

It is further classified as mild, moderate or severe. Unfortunately people who are depressed, don’t often seek the necessary help .This is often due to fear and embarrassment. It is therefore vital that we recognise when someone is depressed.

From personal experience I find that providing support and allowing the person to speak or write down their feelings freely, is the basis on which treatment can be initiated.

Depression is a treatable condition. Patients require ongoing counselling from a psychologist and usually anti-depressants prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist. It is also wise to point out to the patient that treatment is for a minimum of 6 months.

Anti-depressants usually take effect after a few weeks, so it’s important the patient is compliant. Once daily doses are all that is needed to control the depressive symptoms. Fewer side effects and improved tolerance of the newer anti-depressants make it easier for patients to adhere to treatment.

At Peermed we are linked to several psychologists who provide excellent counselling services. Confidential appointments can be arranged. We also refer timeously to experienced psychiatrists. It is important for all of us to recognise the symptoms of depression as its impact on one’s life can be devastating.

By Dr P Naidoo

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