The topic I want to write about today is one which is an issue that I have come across with many people I know and I believe is very important to talk about although it is rarely discussed in Muslim gatherings. And that is the illness of depression.
For some reason in our community depression comes with a stigma.
Causes of Depression
There are a variety of reasons why depression occurs.
Factors involved in causing depression, include:
â€¢ A history of depression in the family: It is believed that depression is passed genetically from generation to generation, although the exact way this occurs is not known.
â€¢ Grief from the death or loss of a loved one.
â€¢ Personal disputes, like conflict with a family member.
â€¢ Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
â€¢ Major events that occur in everyone’s lives, such as moving, graduating, changing jobs, getting married or divorced, retiring, etc.
â€¢ Serious illness: depressed feelings are a common reaction to many medical illnesses.
â€¢ Certain medications
â€¢ Financial strain
â€¢ Substance abuse: close to 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have major depression. (1)
Often when we encounter someone who has depression, we start to speculate as to perhaps there is something wrong in this personâ€™s life. We might think that maybe there is something wrong with their job, maybe they are financially overburdened, or maybe they are not getting along with their spouse, or maybe they are missing their parents, and if we canâ€™t find any other reason, we might simply think that they are weird. Muslims might say that it is a lack of iman, or due to sins, or that the person who seems to have it all is simply thankless.
However it might just be simply biology. Although the above factors might be contributing factors, it is often that a person will just simply get depression and none of the above factors exist. This is because the fact is that depression is an illness, just like any other illness. Just like there are diseases of the heart, or the lungs, or the joints, this is an illness of the brain. It has been scientifically proven that there are changes in the brains of people who suffer from depression. There is a chemical called serotonin which enables the body to communicate with the nerves in the brain. Then there is a small part of the brain called the hippocamus which is important to the storage of memories and it contains the seratonin receptors. If someone has a smaller hippocampus they will have a smaller amount of serotonin receptors, and other chemicals which are responsible for mood control. It is just like someone who has diabetes in which the body fails to produce enough insulin. In the case of depression not enough seratonin receptors are functioning.
There is also proof that shows that there is a genetic predisposition for depression. Therefore if oneâ€™s mother or father or other close relative has suffered from depression then there is a greater likelihood that one would also suffer from depression.
Food allergies, prescription drugs, caffeine, hypoglycemia, chronic pain, and especially in women hormonal disorders such as, thyroid disorders, parathyroid, adrenal glands are also causes for depression.
The first thing is to be diagnosed. For major depression, you may experience five or more of the following for at least a two-week period:
â€¢ Persistent sadness, pessimism.
â€¢ Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness or hopelessness.
â€¢ Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, including sex.
â€¢ Difficulty concentrating and complaints of poor memory.
â€¢ Worsening of coexisting chronic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes.
â€¢ Insomnia or oversleeping.
â€¢ Weight gain or loss.
â€¢ Fatigue, lack of energy.
â€¢ Anxiety, agitation, irritability.
â€¢ Thoughts of suicide or death.
â€¢ Slow speech; slow movements.
â€¢ Headache, stomachache and digestive problems.
You must go to your doctor and speak to her openly and honestly. In order to be diagnosed and prescribed the proper medication.
In many Muslim circles you will hear people say that you do not need medicine all you need is prayer and to make your iman strong.
There is a misconception that anti-depressants are addictive. This is not true.
Right now you need to focus on what you need to recover from your illness. Do not worry about anything else.
What I would say is that you need to do BOTH MEDICATION AND PRAYER. Because I believe that Medication is also a gift from Allah, if we do not take advantage then we are hurting ourselves. The medication will make you feel awful for the first week to 10 days or even 2 weeks, but you have to give it time. You may experience nausea (feeling like you want to throw up or vomit) You will feel like spaced out (not able to concentrate) You will feel sleepy and maybe some restlessness. I advise that you not drive or ride motorcycle by yourself during that stage. This is where I believe is the true test from Allah, to see how much sabr we have. And keep praying to Allah. And making Dua. and keep hope alive in you. Do not lose hope. I know it is so hard. But keep telling yourself â€œI WILL RECOVER. INSHALLAHâ€.
Keep yourself busy. Sit with your family, I will stress this point. AVOID SITTING BY YOURSELF OR BEING ALONE. Find the people who you can trust and who truly care about you and talk to them. Also there is nothing wrong in seeing a therapist, if you feel there are some issues that are bothering you. Read the Surahs Fatihah, Ikhals, Falaq and Nas. And read Ayat â€“ul-Kursiy and Darood, as much as possible it will definitely help you.
How to Deal with Someone who Has Depression
How to Help a Friend With a Serious Depression Problem
Helping a friend, partner, or relative with depression is much like helping someone who has recently had surgery. Acceptance and assistance in both situations are foundations to recovery. However, failure to secure professional treatment for serious (clinical) depression can sometimes lead to suicide.
1. Accept. Research depression and accept that depression is a disease — a disease that takes many forms and one in which the person suffering from it has little control.
2. Acknowledge. Tell the person suffering from depression that youâ€™ve noticed that they seem down or depressed lately.
3. Ask. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help.
4. Listen. If the person wants to talk, actively listen without judging or giving advice.
5. Encourage. Help the person find professional help. Encourage the person to start with a family doctor or local mental health associations. Offer to help them find resources or counselling services.
6. Watch. More severe forms can lead to job loss, dramatic loss of weight, substantial social isolation, and suicide.
7. Act. Ask the person if they are thinking about suicide or hurting themselves. If they say they are, you need to seek immediate professional help. Call a Suicide Hotline for referrals and advice. In the USA call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org) Local mental health organizations (government or non-profit organizations) can also provide referrals. These organizations are especially important for individuals with limited incomes. They may be able to provide counseling for free or at a reduced cost.
8. Refrain. For those undergoing counseling or using psychiatric drugs, donâ€™t second-guess the treatment being provided by the professional. Mental health professionals are trained and licensed to treat depression. â€œSecond-guessingâ€ may hamper the treatment of depression by undermining the trusting relationship being developed by the professional and their client.
9. Comfort. A person with depression often has problems with basic household chores or providing themselves with things that ordinarily provide comfort. You can comfort them by offering to help with chores and running errands. These simple tasks often feel overwhelming to a person with depression. You can also do special things like taking them out to dinner, buying them a gift certificate for a massage, presenting a bouquet of flowers, etc. Even if the person with depression declines your offers of assistance, increasing the frequency of things you normally do with that person (walk, dine out, go to a movie) may provide them comfort without seeming intrusive.
â€¢ People with depression can’t “snap out of it” or “pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” although society often conveys that message.
â€¢ Do not try to make them feel better by reminding them how much better their lives are than other people’s.
â€¢ Remember that having a mental illness still carries a stigma in our society. So, before you discuss the depressed person’s condition with a third party, ask their permission to do so. You want to help them, not make them subject to the gossip mill.
â€¢ If you honestly mean it and can do so with an open heart, offer to be there 24/7. Tell them that you welcome their phone calls at all hours. You will rarely, if ever, receive a middle of the night call. But a sincere offer sends a message of support that will be heard.
â€¢ Offer advice sparingly.
â€¢ Many people with depression will turn down your offer of assistance. Don’t take it personally.
â€¢ Don’t take rejection personally. Often, a person with depression will reject the best of friends or partners and remain aloof. Although the rejection may hurt, it is not about you.
â€¢ Ask what you can do to help, rather than assume you know the answers.
â€¢ In helping, be aware that a person with depression is vulnerable. Ensure that you are not using a person’s depression to further your emotional or physical needs.
â€¢ Get them to express their emotion. Writing, poetry, art, origami, talking, journals, and video games are all good ways to express emotions.
â€¢ If they are serious about doing harm to themselves, you need to contact assistance immediately.
â€¢ If you are the least bit worried that a person may be suicidal or may otherwise physically harm themselves, call a suicide helpline or a local mental health organization for advice on how to proceed. The professionals are there to help you also.
â€¢ Ask a depressed friend for help. “Can you give me a hand with this tomorrow?” is a great, low-stress method for getting them involved in life and thinking outside themselves. Make it about the project, not about their depression.
â€¢ Exercise is one of the better medicines. Set up a walking program or some other form of physical activity with your friend. Exercise serves two purposes. First it helps the body produce chemicals that lessen depression, and second, it helps remove a person from a socially isolating situation. However, be mindful that a depressed person often cannot adhere to a schedule that they perceive as overwhelming. So start slowly.
â€¢ Work with the person suffering from depression to find positive social networks, volunteer opportunities, mental health support groups, and spiritual organizations.
I would also like to add that do not think that this person is looking for attention. The amount of damage you can do by giving this feeling is great. The treatment involves talking about the illness and how one is feeling, so by giving the patient the feeling that they are looking for attention is very destructive to the treatment of the person. Islamically, we should understand the dynamics of the disease and be sensitive to the patient. Just as with any other illness we need to be sympathetic and also caring. Do not ostracize the person or stigmatize them.
The good news is that treatment works. Most people make a full recovery from the illness if they receive proper treatment.
I would like to invite our readers to send in any questions they might have dealing with social, religious, even legal issues and I will do my best to try to give you the best answers and information I can, if it is something I can not answer I will find an expert who will be able to answer.