The Realities of Depression



Depression is medically considered to be a mood disorder. 

It’s often described as having feelings of sadness, loss or anger which can impair a person’s daily activities, and it is more common than you think.


According to statistics released by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), at least 1 in 6 South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression or substance-use problems (not including other conditions like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia)

According to research, over 40% of people living with HIV in South Africa have a diagnosable mental disorder. A study done by UCT’s Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health indicates that, in low-income and informal settlements surrounding Cape Town, one in three women suffers from postnatal depression, while research from rural KwaZulu-Natal shows that 41% of pregnant women are depressed – more than three times higher than the prevalence in developed countries.


In low-income and informal settlements surrounding Cape Town, 1 in 3 women suffer from postnatal depression, indicated by study done by UCT’s Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health , while research from rural KwaZulu-Natal shows that depression in pregnant women in SA are more than three times higher than in developed countries, as much as 41% 


People experience depression in many ways – It may lower productivity at work, and can also influence relationships and chronic health conditions.


Conditions that can get worse due to depression include: 

* arthritis

* asthma

* cardiovascular disease

* cancer

* diabetes

* obesity


It’s important to know that feeling sad and down at times is a normal part of life. 

Upsetting and sad events happen to all the time, but if you’re feeling down or hopeless regularly you could be dealing with depression.

Depression is considered a serious medical condition that can worsen without proper treatment. Those who seek treatment often see improvements in symptoms in just a few weeks.


Symptoms of Depression

Depression can be more than a constant state of sadness or feeling “down.”

Major depression can cause many symptoms affecting not only your mood, but also your body. These symptoms may come and go or be constant. The symptoms of depression can affect men, women and children all differently.


Symptoms men may experience:

* Anger, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, restlessness

* Emptiness, sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest in favourite activities, feeling tired easily, thoughts of suicide, drinking excessively, using drugs, engaging in high-risk activities

* Reduced sexual desire, Inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, delayed responses during conversations

* Insomnia, restless sleep, excessive sleepiness, not sleeping through the night

* Fatigue, pains, headache, digestive problems


Symptoms women may experience:

* Irritability, sadness, emptiness, anxiousness or hopelessness

* Lack of interest in activities, withdrawing from social engagements, thoughts of suicide

* Thinking or talking slower than normal

* Insomnia, decreased energy, greater fatigue, changes in appetite, weight changes, aches, pain, headaches, increased cramps


Symptoms children may experience:

* Irritability, anger, mood swings, crying, feelings of incompetence (e.g. “I can’t do anything right”), intense sadness

* Behavioural symptoms like getting into trouble at school or refusing to go to school

* Avoiding friends or siblings, thoughts of death or suicide

* Difficulty concentrating, decline in school performance

* Lack of sleep or sleeping too much

* Loss of energy, digestive problems, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain


The symptoms of depression can extend beyond your mind.

These seven physical symptoms of depression prove that depression isn’t just all in your head.


Causes of Depression

The causes of depression range from biological to circumstantial.


Common causes for Depression are: 

* Family history. If depression or another mood disorder runs in your family, you will have a higher risk of suffering from it.

* Early childhood trauma. How your body reacts to fear and stressful situations may be due to early traumatic events.

* Brain structure. Depression is more prevalent where the frontal lobe of your brain is less active. However, scientists are still researching if this comes before or after experiencing the symptoms of depression.

* Medical conditions. Certain chronic illnesses may put you at higher risk, as well as insomnia, chronic pain, or ADHD.

* Drug use. A history of drug or alcohol abuse could affect your risk.


About 21 percent of people who have a substance use problem also experience depression.


In addition to these causes, other risk factors for depression include: 

* low self-esteem or being self-critical

* personal history of mental illness

* certain medications

* stressful events, such as loss of a loved one, economic problems, or a divorce 


Many factors can influence feelings of depression, as well as who develops the condition and who doesn’t.

The causes of depression are often tied to other elements of your health.


Treatment for Depression

Living with depression can be difficult, but treatment can help improve your quality of life. 

By consulting your councillor or therapist you may successfully manage symptoms with one form of treatment, or you may find that a combination of treatments work best for you.


According to, it’s common to combine medical treatments and lifestyle therapies, including the following:

Medication, psychotherapy, light therapy, alternative therapies, exercise, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and taking good care of yourself.


Natural treatment for depression

Traditional depression treatment uses a combination of prescription medication and counseling. But there are also alternative or complementary treatments you can try, including supplements, vitamins and essential oils.


For more information on clinical depression and to seek advice, please contact