What is Depression?
“Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.” – Mental Health Foundation
It is not uncommon to feel low and pretty miserable with day to day life once in a while but this usually passes quite quickly. If these feelings do not go away after a couple of weeks or if they keep returning for a few days at a time, you may, however, be experiencing depression.
The language used around mental illness both when self-diagnosing and using flippant remarks, still contributes to the stigma. Often we still hear people saying they are “depressed” rather than “sad” or “upset”. That’s why we don’t want this post to be a straightforward answer to whether you do or don’t have depression. Rather, we want to give you information that can help you to better understand it, whether you have already been diagnosed or think you may be suffering from depression.
There are different stages of depression – mild, moderate or severe and once diagnosed, your GP/medical professional will be able to assess where you are at present (although this can and will likely change). In the mild category, the symptoms experienced have a limited effect on daily life. Severe depression has a major effect on everyday life and might include experiencing psychotic symptoms which are likely to be linked to your depressed thoughts and feelings. These may include having hallucinations (hearing voices and in some cases seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting things that are not real) or having delusions (thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true).
The good news is that depression is a treatable condition.
Symptoms of Depression
- Feeling down, negative and having a pessimistic view of the future
- Feeling anxious
- Crying a lot or feeling empty and numb
- Feeling agitated
- Tiredness all the time
- Loss of energy
- Loss of motivation/interest in everything (including things you normally love doing)
- Feeling isolated and unable to relate to others
- Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
- Feeling helpless and hopeless
- Worthless and feelings of guilt
- Intolerance of others
- Self-harming or having suicidal thoughts
- Suicidal behaviour.
- Difficulty functioning – at home/school/college/work
- Unable to think clearly
- Inability to concentrate or remember things
- Physical aches and pains
- Moving slowly
- Difficulty sleeping, disturbed sleep patterns or sleeping too much
- Loss of appetite or comfort eating
- Smoking, drinking alcohol or recreational drugs more than usual
- Loss of sex drive.
Depression can affect you no matter what age, gender, beliefs or lifestyle. Research has shown that if a parent has suffered from depression then it is likely that their child may also suffer from it at some point in their life too, depending on how they managed to cope with difficult emotions and situations growing up.
These situations could have a major impact on a child’s mental health:
- Being brought up in an unstable home environment
- Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Being bullied
- Any traumatic events
- Bereavement – the loss of someone close to them
Life can be hard and adults sometimes struggle to come to terms with how they are feeling and deal appropriately with certain situations, which subsequently can result in depression. For example, the following can all be contributing factors:
- End of a marriage or relationship
- Stress at work
- Financial pressures
- Changing job
- Losing your job
- Being unemployed
- Moving house
- Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Being bullied
Physical health problems that can cause depression:
- Life-threatening illnesses
- Chronic health problems (heart disease, back pain)
- Brain injuries
- Hormonal or chemical changes in your body
- Menstrual cycle or menopause
- Low blood sugar
- Sleep problems
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
There are different types of depression. It can be an isolated condition but can also be part of other mental health illnesses. You do need to see a GP/medical professional in order to get a proper diagnosis.
Treatment for Depression
Antidepressants – Your GP can prescribe these but like with any medication, there are side effects. Dependent on the severity of the depression, these can be prescribed on their own or with psychological treatment. Once prescribed antidepressants, do not just stop taking them if you think you do not need them any more; you need to speak to your GP.
Counselling – A chance for you to talk through how you are feeling and get guidance on how to manage the symptoms yourself.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – Identifying patterns of behaviour and ways of changing them. (The way you think and how this can cause depression)
Psychotherapy – Looking at your early experiences and working towards improving how you see and talk to yourself.
Interpersonal Therapy – Helping you to manage the different relationships in your life.
Guided Self Help – where you work through a self-help workbook or computer course with the support of a therapist.
Therapy Groups – we offer groups for eating disorders, trauma and mental illness treatment.
Depression is very real and not something you can just ‘snap out of’.
Having depression is not a sign of weakness and there is no shame or embarrassment in talking about it and seeking help. You also don’t have to ‘look’ depressed or have to demonstrate all of these signs and symptoms all of the time to be experiencing it.