Nigerian Doctor, Azibanigha Scott, Helps Make Sense Of Depression Diagnosis, Symptoms And Predisposing Factors

A Nigerian doctor, Azibanigha Scott, in a blog post, addressed the wanton use of the words ‘depressed’ and ‘depression’. Dr. Azi, who worked as a clinical content researcher and later on, as a clinical analyst in one of the largest tech companies in Dublin Ireland before recently moving to Nigeria said, awfully sad incidents can happen to a person and cause them to experience deep sadness but that does not mean they are depressed or suffering depression.

According to the medical doctor, there are specific criteria that must be met for the diagnosis of depression to be made; and she lists five distinct traits that must be present before a diagnosis for depression is made.

In her post, the diagnosis of depression is made using a diagnostic tool published by the American Psychiatric Association, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fifth edition (DSM-5). What that means is that, until a doctor takes an appropriate history, other causes have been excluded, and the individual meets the criteria, then a diagnosis can be made.

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Below are the symptoms she listed according to the DSM-5 criteria:

  1. Depressed mood: This is the persistent feeling of sadness.
  2. Diminished interest or loss of pleasure in almost all activities: The medical term for this is called anhedonia – it is when you have little or no interest or pleasure in activities you would ordinarily find enjoyable.
  3. Significant weight change or appetite disturbance: This could go two ways, over eating or under-eating.
  4. Sleep disturbance: This could be either having difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping excessively (hypersomnia).
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation: Psychomotor retardation is slowing down of your physical movement and emotional response to things such as talking really slow. Psychomotor agitation means engaging in multiple purposeless movements, such as pacing back and forth, tapping foot, talking really fast.
  6. Fatigue and loss of energy.
  7. Feelings of worthlessness.
  8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate; indecisiveness.
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death, i.e., suicidal ideation.

At least five of the above symptoms have to be present during a two-week period, and one of the symptoms must be either one or two, says Dr Azibanigha.

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“If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, particularly number one or two or nine, you need to see your doctor immediately.

As a society, we are not very vocal regarding our health, hence the late presentation to medical facility.

This is why there is a need to educate people and debunk the stigma.”

She said.

There are so many factors that increase one’s chances of having depression, such as:

  • A history of abuse especially during childhood.
  • Some medications such as steroids.
  • Substance abuse like alcohol, cocaine. They make you feel better initially, but with sustained use, they interfere with how your brain regulates chemicals and can cause depression.
  • Major tragic event such as loss of a loved one, job loss, major financial loss, heartbreak.
  • Family history: there is a genetic component to depression, so you have a higher chance of having depression if your parents or siblings have it.

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