What is depression?
Depression is a complex mental illness which presents itself in people differently and has a huge variety of symptoms and causes. The low mood which characterises depression is not the same as just having a bad day. To be diagnosed clinically with depression, someone must have suffered low mood, tearfulness or joylessness for at least two weeks.
Sufferers of depression often have to cope with a wide range of troubling emotions and physical effects, which impact day to day life and can stay with a person for a long time. Depression can lead people to withdraw from relationships and normal life, leading them to become isolated or feel trapped within their mental illness. The fear of rejection and stigma often stops people opening up and talking about what they are feeling. Depression presents itself in such a way which can feel unconquerable, another reason why people might hesitate to get help when they need it.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the UK and worldwide. It affects around one in 10 people, so if you haven’t experienced it yourself, the likelihood is you know someone who has. Or perhaps you didn’t know how to identify this condition when you were feeling low.
Depression can take many forms and vary in severity: from suicidal thoughts to general feelings of hopelessness and apathy. You can see read more about this in the ‘Symptoms of depression’ section below.
Depending on the depth of a person’s depression, different treatments will be used. Even in the most severe cases, depression is a treatable illness, even though it may not feel like it to the person suffering. In cases of mild depression, exercise and self-help groups could be sufficiently helpful. In more severe cases, a range of antidepressants are available. For both mild and severe depression, counselling and psychotherapy are extremely effective.
Symptoms of depression:
- feeling tired, disinterested, joyless, unmotivated
- having difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- emotionally detaching yourself from people and situations
- feeling isolated and misunderstood
- feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and powerlessness
- feeling constantly anxious, tearful and worried
- irritability and intolerance of others
- low self-esteem
- excessive and inappropriate guilt
- recurring thoughts of death or suicide
Physical symptoms of depression:
- change in sleeping patterns: insomnia or feeling constantly tired
- change in eating behaviour: under or overeating, change in appetite
- loss of libido
- chronic pain
- slowness in movement or speech
- changes in menstrual cycle
- constant headaches or stomach upsets