Depression

Everyone feels sad from time to time. However these feelings are short-lived and last only a few days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common illness that 1 in 10 people will deal with at some stage in their lives.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living. Depression can affect people of any age, including children.

People with depression may be told by others to “pull your socks up” or “snap out of it”. The truth is that they cannot, and comments like this are very unhelpful. Understanding that your symptoms are due to depression and that it is a common illness, may help you to accept that you are ill and need help.

Types of Depression

Major Depression

Major Depression is disabling and will interfere with the ability to work, study, eat, and sleep. It may occur once or twice in a lifetime, or it may re-occur frequently. It may also take place spontaneously, during or after the death of a loved one, a romantic breakup, a medical illness, or other life event.

Persistent depressive disorder

A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years. It involves the same symptoms as major depression, mainly low energy, poor appetite or overeating, and insomnia (can’t sleep) or oversleeping. Inability to gain pleasure from any activity is a common complaint.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. It is characterised by episodes of depression that recur at the same time each year, usually during winter. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone.

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a type of depression some women experience after having a baby.It can develop within the first six weeks of giving birth, but is often not apparent until around six months. Postnatal depression is more common than many people realise, affecting around one in 10 women after having a baby. The symptoms of postnatal depression are wide-ranging and can include low mood, feeling unable to cope and difficulty sleeping.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows. If you have bipolar disorder, you will have periods or episodes of:

Depression – where you feel very low and lethargic

Mania – where you feel very high and overactive

Symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood you are experiencing. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer), and some people may not experience a "normal" mood very often.

Causes

There is no single cause of depression. You can develop it for different reasons and it has many different triggers. For some people, it happens because of a traumatic life event such as bereavement, relationship breakdown, financial difficulties or bullying. People often talk about a "downward spiral" of events that leads to depression. For example after a losing a loved one you may redraw from your friends which could all lead to depression. It could also have a genetic (the genes we inherit from our parents) element to it.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Key symptoms include (symptoms are present nearly every day for at least 2 weeks):

  • Depressed Mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in once pleasurable activities
  • Decreased energy or increased tiredness

Other Symptoms:

  • Change in appetite or weight (increased or decreased)
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Slowing down of thought’s or movement
  • Low self-esteem or confidence
  • Excessive guilt or being too hard on yourself
  • Reduced concentration and attention
  •  Ideas or acts of self-harm or suicide

Tips to help you cope with Depression

If you feel you are depressed make an appointment with a mental health professional or your GP. Do not wait too long to get evaluated or treated. There is research showing, the earlier you begin treatment the shorter your recovery will be. Try to see a professional as soon as possible.

Talk about how you feel

Talk to someone you trust such as your partner, a family member, a friend or neighbour. The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t mean you’re a burden to others. Your loved ones care about you and want to help.

Exercise

When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem like a daunting task, let alone exercising.

But regular exercise, like walking, will help you to combat stress and release tension. It increases the activity level of important brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine acts to reinforce behaviours that make you feel good, while serotonin is important for calmness and emotional well-being. The key is to pick an activity you enjoy, so you’re more likely to stick with it.

Diet

Try to eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Food does have an impact on mood. Sugary foods lead to a sharp drop in blood sugars later on and this leads to energy and mood slumps. Caffeine also has a negative impact, causing increased heart rate and interfering with sleep.

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant and can prove a potent trigger to low mood, especially in individuals prone to depression. It can also interact dangerously with medication.

Treat yourself well

Take a look at the language you use when you think about or talk to yourself and compare it to the way you talk to everyone else. If there's a disconnect, try to treat yourself in a kinder, gentler way.

Treatment

Depending on the severity of your depression, your health professional may recommend psychotherapy (talking therapy), medication or a combination of both.

Many studies have shown that CBT is a particularly effective treatment for depression, especially minor or moderate depression. CBT helps people with depression restructure negative thought patterns. Doing so helps people see their environment and interactions with others in a positive and realistic way. It may also help a person recognize things that may be contributing to the depression and help him or her change behaviours that may be making the depression worse.