Muslimah: "Doctor, I have been feeling very down on my luck recently, and I am always sad or upset. I don't eat the way I used to either, and my sleep pattern is messed up. Some days I sleep for 12 hours and other days I cannot sleep at all, and activities that I used to enjoy, I no longer find enjoyment in."
Doctor: "How long have you felt this way?"
Muslimah: "I have felt this way for about a year, but it is getting worse."
Muslimah shows many signs and symptoms of depression which, if left unattended to, can lead to some serious behaviors and a hard lifestyle for her and her family. Major depressive disorder is a common problem, especially in today's stressful world. Our lives have become very busy, and our worries are tremendous, bringing depression to the forefront of modern medicine.
I feel upset every once in a while – am I depressed?
It is important to know that we all go through hard times and have those days where we feel all-around down and upset. That is a normal human emotion as is feeling upset, especially during very stressful events; but it is not normal for these feelings to persist and for them to get worse and worse.
Can depression lead to physical problems?
Absolutely. Depression can lead to increased headaches, and even to unexplained pains and aches. It can also lead to reduced memory spans, especially in the elderly. Many digestive problems also begin to show, such as constipation or even diarrhea, as well as reduced weight.
Prevention is better than treatment!
The best treatment to any problem is to prevent it, and this is true for depression too. Some preventative measures include exercise, relaxation techniques to reduce stress, and a healthy diet. All of those methods aid in preventing depression as well as many other mental and physical ailments.
What treatments are available?
If you are concerned and have many symptoms that point to depression, treatment options are available. If you are just mildly depressed, then you can start exercising since it is a natural way to lift our mood. If you have serious depression and some suicidal thoughts, then obviously it is best and compulsory to visit your physician. Get medication from your physician, and a referral to some form of therapy to help you better understand how to cope with and rid yourself of this ailment. Since depression stems from both a chemical and psychological imbalance, both treatments done together is the best way to treat it.
You should not brush off depression, because if left completely untreated, you can turn into a danger for yourself and – though rarely – a danger to others. At the same time, I do not wish to scare everyone into thinking they are ill! I want to re-emphasize that depression as a diagnosis is for a person in a persistently depressed mood, and not for someone with an occasional bad day. An occasional bad day can be dealt with through talking with someone, relaxing, and turning to the Qur'an for guidance and comfort, and does not require a visit to a doctor.
I hope I have shed some light on this topic and, God willing, this will trigger a healthy discussion on the mental health of our community and the importance of guarding our mental state in the same way that we give importance to guarding our physical state.