Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Department of Psychiatry is using its position as Qatar’s primary provider of specialist mental health care to encourage greater understanding of the most common and treatable mental illnesses - depression and anxiety.
Dr. Suhaila Ghuloum, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at HMC explains that the misconception that depression and anxiety are trivial issues, or are issues to be ashamed of, leads to people not seeking the necessary help, which in turn prolongs their experience. “It is very important that everyone understands that depression and anxiety are legitimate illnesses with very real symptoms and that the best way of effectively dealing with these illnesses is to seek treatment as soon as possible.”
“Depression is best defined as a persistent feeling of sadness lasting for more than two weeks rather than just a few days,” explains Dr. Ghuloum. “There are times when we all feel low but this does not necessarily mean that we are depressed – the longevity, the impact the symptoms have on your daily life and the persistence of symptoms are usually key characteristics of the illness.”
Dr. Ghuloum notes that depression can be difficult to recognize initially, particularly if you have not experienced it before. “Depression affects people in different ways and at different levels of severity; not everyone experiences the exact same symptoms. Some of the symptoms common to depression are feeling sad and without hope, feeling tearful, having no interest in things that you would normally enjoy and feeling anxious.”
“There are also physical symptoms such as a loss of appetite, having difficulty sleeping and unexplained aches and pains. If you are experiencing these symptoms persistently, the best possible thing you can do is seek help. By talking to a doctor your condition will be assessed and they will work with you to find the best possible treatment for a full recovery.”
Anxiety is also a common mental illness in Qatar and world-wide. As with feeling low, anxiety, to a degree, is a normal part of life and we will all experience anxiety at some stage – often fuelled by an important event/occurrence. Dr Ghuloum explains that the defining characteristics which make anxiety a mental illness, rather than a normal part of life are, again, the degree to which the symptoms impact your day-to-day activities and the persistence of symptoms.
“Anxiety becomes an illness when a person finds themselves unable to control their worrying; worrying about a variety of things which then begins to affect daily life. There are also physical affects linked to anxiety, such as a rapid heartbeat, and sweating and shaking – these can be excessive and result in what is known as a panic attack. If left untreated, anxiety can have a very negative effect on a person’s life and overall wellbeing; however, there are also many successful treatments available for anxiety.”
Talking to a loved one, or a family member or friend you can trust, is usually a good first step to feeling better. Bottling up your feelings and avoiding the issue is recognized as detrimental to a person’s recovery. “Talking about your concerns and feelings is very important and it can alleviate a huge weight from your shoulders to share your worries with a person you trust, such as your doctor, a religious guide, a friend or a member of your family. These people can all help you to take a positive first step towards recovery,” notes Dr. Ghuloum.
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