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How Depression and Anxiety Are Affecting Arab People

posted on: Mar 20, 2022

Depression and anxiety are the leading mental health problems in Arab countries and can result in low motivation, loss of productivity, and feelings of despair. It is important to recognize depression and anxiety as prompt treatment or earlier diagnosis results in a good functional outcome with complete resolution of symptoms. Some common signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression include a persistent low mood, feeling of sadness and despair, lack of self-esteem, loss of motivation, zero or low energy levels, and social withdrawal. Other signs include crying spells, loss of interest, increased alcohol or substance use to escape, and poor self-hygiene with a sudden change in appearance. Early detection is a key to complete recovery. 

The Arabian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a network of six wealthy states, which include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Oman. These are all rich, influential, and oil-producing states. Their community has undergone a drastic alteration due to oil production leading to an affluent lifestyle and shifting from rural to urban and modern. These countries often share borders, similar geopolitical and cultural characteristics, and similar economies. They are all Muslim states, so they share the same religious beliefs. 

These GCC countries share similar health characteristics, making direct comparison easy as they have many common factors. Like other countries in the world, these countries have also seen a surge in non-communicable diseases like mental health problems. These countries have a high burden of mental health problems, especially depression and anxiety. The burden of disease is more in younger and middle-aged men, although some studies have also shown a high incidence of depression in post-menopausal women. 

Incidence of depression in Arab countries: 

Health is defined as a state of complete mental, physical, and emotional well-being. According to the World Health Organization, one in ten people can be affected by depression. It was labeled as the third likely cause of disability in 2004 and is expected to move to first place by 2030. According to a recent study, about 7% of the population in Saudi Arabia is suffering from depression. This depression is a silent killer and leads to poor quality of life. 

Causes of depression and anxiety in Arabs 

Causes of high depression in Arab countries include: 

● Stressful life 

● High urbanization 

● Not being able to keep up with progress 

● Marital or other relationship problems 

● Covid-19 

● Lack of privacy 

● Family stressors 

● Lack of support 

● Work-related stress

Covid-19 and Mental Health in Arabs 

Covid-19 has made a tremendous impact on Arab people. It has brought about many changes in the world. People have experienced grief social isolation; there has been a loss of income. During the pandemic, people have experienced many problems, resulting in new mental health problems or worsening preexisting anxiety and depression. 

COVID-19 infection itself has resulted in neurological and mental complications. There has been an increased incidence of aggression, delirium, agitation, and stroke. 

Impact of Depression on Arab people 

There have been tremendous impacts of depression and anxiety on the quality of life. People, especially youth, have started having increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. 

There is an enormous impact of mental illness on young people who are receiving education or who are employed. The cost is not just in wages lost but in time lost from school, university, and work. Young people with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues often have trouble 

finding help. Mental illness is still considered a stigma, and mental health counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists are rare. Moreover, families often do not realize the gravity of the situation or are reluctant to seek help letting people suffer in silence. 

The Effects of Depression on the Body: 

Depression not only affects our mental health, but it also has a tremendous impact on physical health as well. Numerous body systems work together in harmony. If the mind is disturbed, the other body systems may also show their effects. 

Gastrointestinal system: 

Depression and anxiety are closely linked to the gut. The following changes may be seen 1. Appetite loss 

2. Hyperphagia or eating too much 

3. Bloating 

4. Stomach cramps 

5. Nausea 

Patients may develop malnutrition, and it is especially seen in the elderly, who are often neglected. 

Cardiovascular system 

It may cause stress to the heart. Stress-induced heart attacks and heart failure (Takotsubo cardiomyopathy) have been seen in Arab women with severe shock or stress. Other manifestations include: 

1. High blood pressure 

2. Increased incidence of smoking 

3. Recreational drug use 

4. Raised cholesterol

5. Diabetes due to the release of cortisol 

Neurological system: 

The impact of stress and anxiety on the neurological system or brain is well-documented. Some of the salient features include 

1. Memory loss 

2. Headaches 

3. Body aches 

4. Low immune system 

5. Inability to focus 

6. Impaired decision-making capacity 

Suicide incidence: 

There is a high incidence of suicide in Arab countries due to a lack of mental health professionals. According to a survey done in 2015, the most common patients who present with suicidal attempts are middle-aged Arab women ingesting poisons due to family pressure or interpersonal stressors. This is due to the Arab culture and its beliefs, which can dictate privacy and result in tabooing of mental health and suicide. 

Treatment of depression: 

If you are reading this article, you may be worried that you or your loved one is suffering from anxiety or depression. Remember, depression and other mental health disorders are treatable. You can improve the quality of your life with the support of our licensed therapists. Remember, 

we are just a phone or a click away. Our licensed healthcare professionals are ready to provide you with the help you need to heal in the privacy of your own home. If you think someone is at risk of suicide, please do not yell or shout at them. Keep all medicines and sharks away from them. Seek help immediately as any delay can lead to potentially catastrophic consequences. Remember, we are here to listen to you and help you 24/7. Please, do not hesitate to reach out. Your happiness and recovery are just a phone call away.

Please note this post does not necessarily reflect the views of Arab America or its employees.