Depression is a mood disorder depicted by low mood and a wide range of other possible symptoms, which will vary from person to person. It is an illness that can develop progressively or rapidly and can be brought on by life events and changes in body chemistry.
It is not a fancy illness that only affects people of a certain creed, race, gender, marital status, financial status or age. It can affect anybody and it is treatable. It is one of those things that you will not understand until it happens to you or someone close to you.
Depression is a condition that is difficult to talk about. You can call work to request time off with a cold or a broken arm and it is acceptable, but when you have depression you’re seen as lazy, weak, selfish and attention seeking.
Depression is not the same as a physical illness but it can be even more serious because when you are severely depressed you can feel like giving up on life itself.
Depression can affect different people in various ways, for instance;
Postnatal Depression and
Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD).
It can be difficult to distinguish between grief and depression. They share many of the same characteristics, but there are important differences between them. Grief is an entirely natural response to a loss, while depression is an illness. People who are grieving find their feelings of sadness and loss come and go, but they’re still able to enjoy things and look forward to the future.
In contrast, people who are depressed constantly feel sad. They don’t enjoy anything and find it difficult to be positive about the future. However, depression is more than just sadness and you can not ‘just snap out of it”, or will yourself out of it any more than you could snap out of a cold, broken arm or any other ailment. Just like all other illnesses, it takes a while to recover.
Peoples experiences with depression vary, but they might include:
- low mood lasting two weeks or more
- not getting any enjoyment out of life
- feeling hopeless
- feeling tired or lacking energy
- not being able to concentrate on everyday things like reading the paper or watching television
- comfort eating or losing your appetite
- sleeping more than usual or being unable to sleep
- having suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming yourself moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
- unexplained aches and pains
- lack of energy
- low sex drive (loss of libido)
- changes to your menstrual cycle
- disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning
- not doing well at work
- avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
- neglecting your hobbies and interests
- having difficulties in your home and family life
Depression is hard to ignore at its worst but at the same time we don’t want to admit it. Sometimes we don’t notice it creeping up on us. Many people try to cope with their symptoms without realising that they are unwell. It can sometimes take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.
Doctors describe depression by how serious it is:
- mild depression which has some impact on your daily life
- moderate depression which has a significant impact on your daily life
- severe depression which makes it almost impossible to get through daily life; a few people with severe depression may have psychotic symptoms
People suffering from depression should never hesitate to seek help. There is no reason to suffer in silence, when there are treatments available.
Whatever the cause, if negative feelings don’t go away, are too much for you to cope with, or are stopping you from carrying on with your normal life, you may need to make some changes and get some extra support.
If you’re still feeling down after a couple of weeks, talk to your GP or call NHS 111. Your GP can discuss your symptoms with you and make a diagnosis.
If you’re diagnosed with depression, your GP will discuss all of the available treatment options with you, including self-help, talking therapies and antidepressants.
Whether you have depression or just find yourself feeling down for a while, it could be worth trying some self-help techniques.
Life changes, such as getting a regular good night’s sleep, keeping to a healthy diet, reducing your alcohol intake and getting regular exercise, can help you feel more in control and more able to cope.
Self-help techniques can include activities such as meditation, breathing exercises and learning ways to think about problems differently. Tools such as self-help books and online counselling can be very effective.
If your GP has prescribed antidepressants, it’s important that you carry on taking them.
There are lots of different types of talking therapies available. To help you decide which one would most suit you, talk to your GP or read about the different types of talking therapies. In some areas, you can refer yourself directly to your local psychological therapies service.
If you start to feel like your life isn’t worth living or you want to harm yourself, get help straight away.
Either see your GP or call NHS 111. You can also call Samaritans on 116 123 for 24-hour confidential, non-judgemental emotional support.
Being silent is not being strong, speaking out is!