Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

How depression is a family affair

Social pressures have been identified as the biggest factor in bringing on depression among sufferers in the UAE, according to psychiatrists.

ABU DHABI // Social pressures have been identified as the biggest factor in bringing on depression among sufferers in the UAE, according to psychiatrists. Divorce, infertility, the demands of childcare and the strains of marriage can all play their part in contributing to the condition, say medical experts. "Social factors play a huge role in causing clinical depression in this region," said Dr Alaa Haweel, a consultant psychiatrist at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC).

"Getting divorced or being labelled a spinster, being unable to have children, pressure from the family, or having too many children and not enough help from the husband are all factors." Speaking at the fifth in a series of public talks on mental health at SKMC, Dr Haweel called depression "the disease of the century". "Between 20-25 per cent of individuals in any society suffer from depression at some point in their lives," he said.

It is more common in those aged 20 to 50, and affects more women than men. "In our society, where the family unit is so prominent, those who are divorced are more likely to fall into a depressed state than in other cultures," he said. Single people are also at risk, but not as much as their western counterparts. "Single people in our culture mostly live with their families instead of moving out and living alone, which helps in preventing depression," he said.

Mohammed Salah, a psychologist and social worker at SKMC, also cited the economic downturn as a cause of depression, especially among men. "Men in this region feel the responsibility of providing for their wives, children and sometimes even extended family, so the pressure of work, or worry about the unstable financial situation, can lead to depression," said Mr Salah. Expatriates who move to the UAE alone are also susceptible, he said.

"People find themselves alone here, with no family or friends to turn to, and at first they are down and listless, but sometimes that can develop into depression." Saad al Khanbashi, a psychologist at SKMC, said depression could be classified into 36 types. "Around five per cent of depressed patients are classified as severely depressed," he said. There is little data on mental health in the UAE - partly due to taboos surrounding the subject, leading many to avoid seeking treatment.

Many say that admitting to depression felt like a weakness, said Dr Haweel. Others fear treatment may be addictive, or they could lose their jobs. "In our society, there are many misconceptions about depression, how to differentiate it from sadness, how to treat it and prevent it," he said. "The faster it is diagnosed, the better, so it does not develop into a chronic problem." hkhalaf@thenational.ae

The most common symptoms of depression are: ? pessimism, sullenness and feeling bored much of the time ? a loss of interest in life or an inability to enjoy and take pleasure in things you once took pleasure in, such as hobbies and interests ? a sudden difficulty in making decisions ? finding difficulty in adapting to changed situations at home or at work ? feeling despair when considering the future ? a loss of self confidence ? constantly blaming oneself ? a loss of appetite for food and a loss of libido, or an increased intake of food (comfort eating) ? insomnia ? avoiding other people, refusing to socialise and preferring to be alone ? feeling extreme fatigue and tiredness for no reason ? entertaining 'black' and suicidal thoughts, or considering death ? physical ailments such as headaches, aches and pains and feelings of worry and tension * Hala Khalaf

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Ali Benflis, opposition leader and main rival to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika speaks to the press after casting his vote in the presidential elections at a polling station in Algiers on. Former prime minister Benflis ran against Bouteflika in 2004 but lost heavily, charging the vote was rigged 10 years ago and has said fraud will be his ‘main adversary’ during the election. Patrick Baz / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world, April 17

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr is pictured before the Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England, on March 1, 2014. Glyn Kirk / AFP

New Southampton owner leading club’s resurgence from the shadows

Katharina Liebherr keeping with family tradition and letting others dominate the spotlight

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National