Despite noticeable advancements in recent years, depression and mental illnesses are still often considered “taboo” topics in Nigeria. As a result, many people suffering from diverse emotional traumas are not receiving the care they need.

According to a study by Health Think Analytics, an estimated 7 million Nigerians struggle with depression, with even higher rates among specific demographics like students, young adults and people suffering from chronic diseases. Anxiety disorders are also common. Recognising the signs in yourself or loved ones is crucial for seeking help.

The stigma surrounding mental health issues in Nigeria can be a significant barrier to seeking help. Culturally, there may be a tendency to dismiss these conditions as weakness or character flaws. However, anxiety and depression are real medical conditions with complex causes, often rooted in a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.

Ignoring these conditions can have serious consequences, impacting not just one’s mental well-being but also physical health, relationships, and overall quality of life.

Understanding Anxiety Disorder and Depression

While the terms “anxiety” and “depression” are often used interchangeably, they are distinct conditions with different presentations.

Anxiety Disorder

This can come in various forms, such as social anxiety, performance anxiety or generalised anxiety. However its form, it presents the same, and has gone on for about 6 months.    

Symptoms of anxiety disorder

People with anxiety disorders experience excessive worry or fear that is difficult to control. They may have persistent physical symptoms like racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, and muscle tension. These worries can centre around specific situations like public speaking or social interactions, or they may be more generalised and free-floating. Additionally, individuals with anxiety can struggle with intrusive thoughts or images that cause significant distress.

Impact of anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders can significantly disrupt daily life. It can make it difficult to concentrate, maintain relationships, or fulfill work or school obligations. Long-term untreated anxiety can lead to physical health problems like headaches, stomach issues, and sleep disturbances.


There are mild, moderate or severe types of this, but some symptoms are common to all types and they include:

Symptoms of depression

The most common symptoms of depression are persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. People with depression may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, experience significant changes in appetite or sleep patterns, weight loss and have low energy levels, for 2 weeks or more. Additionally, they may withdraw from social interaction and struggle with feelings of guilt or difficulty concentrating. Severe depression can come with intent of self-harm

Impact of depression

Depression can be a debilitating condition that can significantly impact one’s ability to function. It can lead to problems at work, school, and in relationships.

It’s Important to Note:

These are just general descriptions of anxiety disorder and depression. The presentation of these conditions can vary from person to person. Additionally, some individuals may experience symptoms of both anxiety and depression concurrently, in a condition known as co-morbidity.

Recognising the Signs of Anxiety and Depression

While the specific symptoms of anxiety disorder and depression may differ, there are some common signs that can help you identify if you or someone you know might be struggling. These signs can be categorised into emotional, physical, and behavioural changes.

Emotional Signs:

● Persistent sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness

● Excessive worry or fear

● Irritability or anger

● Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed

● Emotional numbness or difficulty feeling emotions

Physical Signs:

● Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)

● Changes in appetite (weight loss or gain)

● Fatigue or low energy

● Restlessness or trouble sitting still

● Physical aches and pains without a clear medical cause

● Changes in sex drive

Behavioural Signs:

● Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

● Social withdrawal

● Increased use of alcohol or drugs

● Neglecting personal hygiene or self-care

● Procrastination or difficulty completing tasks

● Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences occasional sadness, worry, or fatigue. However, if these symptoms become persistent (2 weeks or more for depression or 6 months for anxiety) and severe and start to interfere with your daily life, it’s important to seek professional help.

Breaking the Stigma and Seeking Help

Mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of, and many of them are treatable, including anxiety and depression. If you or your loved one is experiencing any of the signs discussed in this article, you should contact a mental health professional.

CareValue Health has certified mental health experts who are discreet, empathetic and ready to help you get back to being your best. Click here to view our mental wellness virtual plans.

Last Update: July 11, 2024