‘Antidepressants do not always address underlying causes’

July is Mental Illness Awareness Month and the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) has emphasized that the stigma associated with mental illness (depression) serves as major barrier to people seeking assistance.

Depression is a medical condition that negatively impacts brain function due to biological or environmental factors.

Dr Matsebula, a member of SASOP revealed that more than a quarter of South Africa’s population suffers from depression and out of four, only one person seeks for help.

“It is a common misconception that depression is a condition that can easily be overcome by simply ‘snapping out of it’,” said Matsebula.

“Various elements contribute to depressive episodes including one’s genetics, anxiety, early adversity, traumatic experiences, various kinds of abuse, and stress.”

Matsebula said it is treatable through medication to address the underlying biological issues contributing to the condition.

“Some people fear antidepressants, but they are safe to use. There are several types of antidepressants, with different side effect profiles.

“The most common treatment approach combines medication with talk therapy (psychotherapy),” he added.

While antidepressants can treat symptoms, Matsebula said they may not always address the underlying causes of depression.

“Talk therapy is highly beneficial in addressing depressive symptoms by exploring, and processing, past and current experiences with a trained professional such as a psychologist.”

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, it is essential to seek help:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
  • Persistent sadness, or feeling empty
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping)
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Decreased energy, fatigue
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, and suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability, and hostility
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
  • Deterioration of social relationships

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