Depression is one of the most common mental disorders found in the general community and in the workplace. Depression is characterised by sadness, fatigue, a loss of interest in most activities, and lack of energy. Other features, such as insomnia (or hypersomnia), loss (or gain) of appetite, a tendency to blame oneself, and difficulty concentrating are often present. In its most serious forms, it can lead to suicidal thoughts and eventually to suicide (World Health Organisation, 2001). Depression can be difficult to diagnose and can manifest as physical symptoms, such as headache, back pain, stomach problems, or angina.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that is typically characterised by a lowered mood and a loss of interest or pleasure in usually enjoyable activities. While occasionally lowered mood is normal, depression is distinguished by its severity, persistence, duration and the presence of particular symptoms, such as sleep disturbances.
Common emotional, behavioural and physical symptoms include:
> markedly depressed mood,
> loss of interest and enjoyment,
> reduced self-esteem,
> pessimistic view of the future,
> ideas or acts of self-harm or suicide,
> disturbed sleep,
> disturbed appetite,
> decreased libido,
> reduced energy,
> reduced concentration and attention.
Depression varies in its severity and the pattern of symptoms. For many, individual symptoms will be of short duration and disappear spontaneously. For others, symptoms persist, with an increasing sense of hopelessness and despair and sometimes suicidal thoughts. With proper treatment, most people recover. Source: Hunt et al., 1995
It has been estimated that 5.8% of men and 9.5% of women will have a depressive episode in any 12-month period. If current trends are maintained, depression will be the second most important cause of disability by the year 2020. In the 15–44 year age bracket, depression is already the second highest cause of morbidity, accounting for 8.3% of the global burden of disease in that age group (World Health Organisation, 2001).
Bipolar affective disorder is a disorder in which a depressive illness exists together with episodes of mania, characterized by elated mood, increased activity, overconfidence and poor concentration. It is much less common than depression alone (the point prevalence is estimated at 0.4%) (World Health Organisation, 2001), but is associated with significant impairment of work performance and disability.