Major depressive disorder, more commonly known as depression, is one of the top three mental health disorders here, according to a National Mental Health Survey conducted by the Institute of Mental Health.
It can affect anyone, including young students, said Dr Nelson Lee, whose youngest patient is only 10 years old.
The psychiatrist and the medical director of The Psychological Wellness Centre shares more about the mental illness.
What is the prevalence of major depressive disorder in Singapore?
The lifetime prevalence rate in Singapore is estimated to be 5.6 per cent by the National Mental Health Survey.
Can anyone be too young to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder?
Depression can affect anyone, such as young students. Usually, it occurs with problems with family and/or school.
The percentage of students seeing me for depression is 5 to 10 per cent of my total patients with depression. My youngest patient is 10 years old.
What are some of the telltale signs of depression?
Some signs to watch out for are persistent sadness, loss of interest in most activities, fatigue, lack of energy and decrease in appetite or weight loss.
You may also have difficulty in concentrating or sleeping, sleep too much, be restless, feel worthless or suicidal.
A person needs to have a few of these symptoms over a period of at least two weeks before being diagnosed by a doctor to have depression.
Who is at risk?
Women have a higher chance of getting depression than men.
People living alone, and those who were previously married, may also be at higher risk.
Depression is also more common in the lower income group or those who are retired or unemployed.
However, depression can still affect anyone.
How is major depressive disorder treated?
Depression can be managed with various treatments such as counselling and psychological treatment, which helps patients cope with stress, think positively and manage their emotions.
Medication, known as antidepressants, can be prescribed by a doctor to help regulate moods.
Anti-depressants have to be taken over a period of two to four weeks before their full benefits are felt and are not addictive.
Some of the newer anti-depressant medications, such as Pristiq, help to increase the levels of chemicals in the brain called serotonin and norepinephrine, which helps with mood stabilisation, treating the symptoms of depression and helping patients get back to work.
I have seen patients recover fully and live a normal life.
What happens when major depressive disorder patients do not get timely treatment?
There is a strong link between depression and other physical illnesses.
Some examples include asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and chronic pain such as arthritis, back pain or migraines.
This article was first published on February 6, 2017.
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