Navigator, tutor and even a black book, the internet can help you find the most unlikely needle from the world’s largest haystack of data in a matter of seconds. We turn to the web to get the latest news, buy a new phone, check the weather and everything in-between. That, of course, is also applicable to run a search on subjects such as mental disorders that are often shrouded in silence, stigma and unawareness. We might have made strides in searching the right keywords, but there’s no guarantee to the accuracy of the results.
For answers, we turned to Mumbai-based counselling psychologist Tanya Percy Vasunia. While psychiatric disorders are non-binary (the manifestations and feelings can be different for different people), below you’ll find seven inquiries on the most searched mental health-related concerns, including depression and anxiety—along with some helpful answers.
Question: What is depression?
Answer: The easiest way to pinpoint any mental health condition is a collection of symptoms that alters your state of mind and reduces your quality of life. When speaking of depression, it refers to a low mood that is consistent and causes feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, lack of interest in sex drive or even life for that matter. This mood disorder eventually impacts your functionality, your ability to socialise and connect with the world. Unfortunately, things are likely to get worse from there on for a person struggling with it. After you isolate yourself, you’re at risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts. If you feel like your mood is deteriorating consistently for a month, then you must go for a checkup.
Question: What are the symptoms of depression in men?
Answer: The symptoms are across gender, but the manifestations of the symptoms may have some gender-based or cultural implications. For example, if a woman is not able to focus at work, she may write it off. On the other hand, for a man, it may be a serious cause of distress. Of course, this can vary from person to person. Other signs of depression in men include sleep disturbances, weight gain or loss, excessive irritability or intolerance and anger.
Question: What is postpartum depression?
Answer: Postpartum depression is a type of mood disorder that’s associated with childbirth. Culturally, this is often dismissed as ‘normal’, however, this is more than just a flux of hormones post-delivery. Postpartum depression evokes a strange feeling of grief or shock among new mothers, and her inability to feel connected with her baby. When this feeling prolongs for over two weeks, we call it the post-baby blues. In rare cases, it may also lead to postpartum psychosis, where you could have a psychotic episode such as disorientation, confusion, compulsive talks about the baby, excessive paranoia, self-harm or harm to the baby. Postpartum depression is also closely linked with traumatic labour. Similarly, if you’re someone who is pre-disposed to depression, then there’s a higher chance that you might succumb to postpartum depression too because there’s a sudden change in the environment around you. I’d like to point out that postpartum depression can last up to two years.
Question: What does an anxiety attack feel like?
Answer: People often use the terms panic attack and anxiety attack interchangeably, but there’s a difference between the two. A panic attack occurs out of nowhere—it could take place even while sipping a cup of coffee. In contrast, an anxiety attack ensues when you’re triggered by a specific thing. For example, public speaking makes you anxious. So, when you have to do it, you might find your palms sweaty, feel disoriented, have difficulty in breathing, and experience an increased heart rate.
Question: How to calm a panic attack?
Answer: A panic attack can last for hours. The best way to suppress it is to alert the person next to you that you’re possibly experiencing a panic attack. There are a few things you can try yourself too. The first thing is deep breathing—I would suggest grabbing a paper bag or an envelope and breathing into it. Focus on its expansion and contraction to calm down a little. Sitting on the floor can help you feel more grounded or feel less dizzy. Getting a glass of ice water and slowly sipping on it is also helpful. Once you feel slightly better, try to change your environment or take a nap. Most importantly, be kind to yourself because a panic or an anxiety attack—besides being mentally exhausting—is also physically tiring.
Question: What is bipolar mood disorder?
Answer: There are three kinds of bipolar mood disorders, and each of them has different characteristics. Typically, they are mood swings. What a person faces in bipolar disorder are phases of mania and phases of depression. Unfortunately, though both those phases, people experience the extremes of them. A manic episode may involve an abnormally elevated mood, feeling very awake, an extreme need to share your thoughts or talk rapidly. During a low, the sufferer may literally not be able to get out of bed, feel hopeless or tempted to hurt themselves. It’s unlikely to have an immediate swap from one mood to the other.
If you or a loved one is in mental distress or having thoughts of suicide or self harm, visit Aasra.info for a directory of helplines in your area