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Times of India
25 July 2011
By, Pratibha Masand
Mumbai India

Depression Can Aggravate Chronic Ailments: Doctors
Friday’s incident at the Chembur college, where a professor jumped to her death because of chronic backache and spinal problems, shows once again that chronic diseases and psychological problems are interrelated, say doctors.

Chronic illnesses are not merely physical problems but a manifestation of depression which causes the disease to aggravate. It is important to give treatment not only to alleviate physical pain, but to also address the mental problems, say psychiatrists.

“One out of four chronic illness cases may have depression associated with it,” said psychiatrist Harish Shetty.

“Though depression is characteristic of a disease, it is more dangerous. Patients suffer from helplessness, sadness and hopelessness and end up taking drastic steps,” he said.

Patients suffering from strokes, cardiac or nephrological problems, or lifestyle diseases, have to get treatment for depression as well.“Sometimes it is the intolerable pain of the diseases–—like that of going through dialysis in kidney problems, while sometimes it is trying every treatment possible and still not getting well, that causes depression in a patient. Someone who is constantly suffering from pain, feels no happiness. Lifestyle too gets altered,” said Dr Shubhangi Parkar, head of psychiatry department at KEM Hospital.

The patient starts considering himself/herself as a burden on others.

The problem, say psychiatrists, is that depression is seen as a part of sickness. “Depression is not seen as a separate problem. So even though the family sees signs of depression, they ignore it thinking that it is part of the illness. But when the depression is treated, the illness too gets better to an extent,” said Dr Shah.

“It is important to remember that the situation can be handled with anti–depressants and counseling. Family and friends should make it a point to recognize signs of depression and take quick action,” said Dr Shetty.

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