Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.
Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days. Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression is not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”. The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.
How to tell if you have depression
The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while severe depression can make you feel suicidal, that life is no longer worth living. You can also become depressed for no obvious reason. There is a genetic component to depression and people with a family history of depression are more likely to experience it themselves.
Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms.
10 common symptoms of depression:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. You don’t care anymore about former interests, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
- Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month. 4. Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.
- Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.
- Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even angry.
- Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behaviour. You may engage in escapist behaviour such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
- Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things. People often complain they stuggle to keep up with the plot of a TV show or book.
- Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
The link between depression symptoms and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since anxiety makes depression worse (and vice versa), it’s important to seek treatment for both conditions.
There’s no single cause of depression. It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers. For some people, an upsetting or stressful life event, such as bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy and job or money worries, can be the cause. Often, more than one stressor can combine to trigger depression. For example, you may feel low after being ill and then experience a traumatic event, such as a bereavement, which brings on depression.
People often talk about a “downward spiral” of events that leads to depression. For example, if your relationship with your partner breaks down, you’re likely to feel low, you may stop seeing friends and family and you may start drinking more. All of this can make you feel worse and trigger depression.
Some studies have also suggested that you’re more likely to get depression as you get older, and that it’s more common in people who live in difficult social and economic circumstances.
Some women are particularly vulnerable to depression after pregnancy. The hormonal and physical changes, as well as the added responsibility of a new life, can lead to postnatal depression. With the right support, this post natal depression can be overcome- but it is important to find help and support.
Depression is not:
- Something you can ‘snap out of’,
- A sign of weakness,
- Something that everyone experiences, or
- Something that lasts forever as one episode.
Treatment for Depression
No matter how hopeless you feel, you can feel better. By understanding the causes of your depression and recognising what drives and maintains your depression, you can take the first steps towards feeling better and overcoming the serious burden depression can be. During your assessment, I can work with you to understand what has led your depression and what is maintaining it. Together we will develop a treatment plan to overcome your depression and maintain your mood in the long term.
Here is a helpful link to the MIND Website information on depression.