You can break free

Published: Nov 13, 2012, 08:27 IST | The Guide Team |

It's a shocking statistic. According to a World Health Organisation study, 35.9% of Indians suffer from some form of depression. Seema Hingorrany, India's leading clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and trauma researcher's new title, Beating the Blues, hopes to inform the reader about this fast-spreading phenomenon that is taking over society, across age groups and strata. We caught up with the expert to share about why it's important to fight the big D

You’ve been helping people overcome depression for decades; what has been some of the most startling revelations that have surfaced about the Indian mind in course of your research?
The most glaring revelation has been that so many of my patients have undergone such negative experiences in their lives. For example, marital discord between parents, overly demanding parents, unjust comparison with siblings, being bullied at school by peers, or being affected by a depressed parent. These negative experiences don’t get processed on their own. In fact, they remain engrained in the human mind all the time and manifest in symptoms like low self-esteem, pain in the body, skin allergies, and depressive tendencies. In many cases, when we seek treatment for these unprocessed memories, the symptoms vanish.

Childhood and teen depression is fast catching up with adult cases. Are we, as a collective community choosing to shove it under the carpet, still?
Yes, I do agree with that statement. We in India are mostly in denial about our children’s mental health condition. Though the scenario is changing now, there are many childhood and teen cases that are left untreated. Parents sometimes approach these years with a sense of trepidation. Teens want both freedom from and connection to their parents, but they are just not sure how to navigate the terrain and as a result send out lots of mixed messages. When teens are exercising their autonomy in their attempts to construct a differentiated self, they push their parents away, worsening the depression further.

How differently do men and women cope with depression?
Men usually go into a shell. They stop talking and interacting, or suffer from agitated depression where they get very angry with their significant others. They process their thoughts in their own later space. Women, on the contrary, want to talk about their feelings. Women have a tendency to emote more than men do.

Beating the Blues, Seema Hingorrany, Random House India, R299. Available at leading bookstores.

When and why did you decide to write Beating the Blues?
When I saw that there was still a lot of misinformation about depression that my patients carried with them, that’s when I felt that I needed to pen down my thoughts, my observations, and true facts about depression. I call Beating the Blues my hope book, in the hope of saving more lives and clearing many doubts that people might have regarding the condition.

What do you link to be the reason behind the increasing number of suicidal cases, especially among the youth?
Considering we live in a fast-paced world where we are constantly grappling with high expectations from parents, school, peers, it is no wonder that suicide cases among troubled teens are rapidly on the rise. A lonely teenager thinks that life is filled with burdens and obstacles and traumatic situations. He thinks that he is inadequate, unworthy, undesirable, and worthless. In addition, he’s frustrated because he thinks that his troubles will continue. Loneliness affects his thoughts about himself, his world, and his future at large. So when he is feeling stressed, he also feels self-blame and pessimism. This leads to the depressive feelings of guilt and sadness culminating in actual suicide in many cases.

How can the Mumbaikar fight depression
“There is a lot of hope. I have been very successful in treating cases of extreme depression in the city. But one has to follow a strict protocol that includes therapy, a proper diet, and exercise. All this can happen with the help of a qualified psychologist.”
— Dr Seema Hingorrany

Did you know?
According to the World Health Organisation, depression is one of the leading causes of disability, with approximately 121 million people suffering with depression worldwide.
>> The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression.
>> The word “melancholic”, meaning depressed, comes from the Greek word for “black bile”.
>> Two out of three people suffering from depression do not seek or receive proper treatment.
>> Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. 70 per cent of those suffering from major depression can fully recover if properly treated (World Health Organisation).
>> 80% to 90% of people who receive treatment for depression show improvement.
>> An estimated 50% of unsuccessful treatment for depression is due to non-compliance with medicines.
>> Major depression is about four times more likely in people with chronic back pain than for the general population.
>> Among chronic pain sufferers, music can help reduce the pain by more than 20% and can alleviate depression by up to 25%.
>> Antidepressants stimulate the growth of new neurons in the brain. So does exercise.
>> Depression happens to strong, not weak people.

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