What Is Depression?

DEPRESSION

Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn't stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal.

There are different types of depression, these include:

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – depression that usually comes in the winter (not always though) but it affects you around the same time each year. Feeling tired, like you have no energy, feeling unable to concentrate or function, sleeping too much or too little, feeling unable to enjoy the things that you used to enjoy, anxiety (feeling irritable and tense), withdrawing from friends and family, overeating (particularly comfort eating), a decreased interest in sex or pleasure, increased drug or alcohol use.

  • Dysthymia – depression that is mild and lasts for two years or more (often referred to as chronic depression)

  • Prenatal depression – depression that comes DURING pregnancy (also called antenatal depression)

  • Postnatal depression (PND) – depression that comes in the weeks and months (sometimes years) after becoming a parent.

SYMPTOMS

The NHS recommends that you should visit your GP if you experience the symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day for over two weeks.

The symptoms include:

  • Having a low mood & feeling sad

  • Feeling tired, like you have no energy

  • Feeling unable to concentrate or function

  • A loss of confidence & hope

  • Sleeping too much or too little

  • Feeling unable to enjoy things that you used to enjoy

  • Withdrawing from friends and family

  • Self-harming

  • Thoughts of suicide (if you are worried about acting on any thoughts of suicide, you can call an ambulance, go straight to A&E or call the Samaritans for free on 116 123).


It’s very common to experience symptoms of depression along with the symptoms of anxiety as some symptoms of depression can also be symptoms of anxiety e.g. feeling irritable and restless.

Depression may also be a symptom of other mental health problems such as Bipolar Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

 

CAUSES

There isn’t a single cause for depression. Depression is complex and many factors can contribute to its development. These factors include:

  • Genetics – research has shown that we are more likely to experience depression if a close member of our family has it (but this could also be because we are more likely to pick up traits and behaviors from them when growing up)

  • Past and current life experiences – early experiences such as childhood abuse, trauma, neglect and life events such as losing your job, financial issues, bereavement can contribute to the development of depression.

  • Physical health problems – you are more likely to develop depression if you have a physical health issue (especially if it is a longstanding one) as the symptoms can often lead to depression e.g. tiredness and being unable to enjoy things you once did.

  • Medication, drugs & alcohol – depression can be a side effect of some prescription medication, if you find that this is the case for you, speak to your doctor to discuss an alternative. Some people may choose to cope by using drugs and alcohol but this actually makes your depression worse in the long-run, so of course, it’s NOT recommended!

HOW CAN I HELP MYSELF?

  • Talk to someone – talking to someone you trust can help in itself, sometimes just sharing your experiences with someone else can make you feel better 

  • Look after your physical health – get some more sleep, choose a healthier diet and do some exercise!

  • Practice self care – find activities that will make you happy and do them. Visit people or places that will make you feel better. Treat yourself! Most importantly, be kind to yourself and treat yourself as you would treat a friend – try not to be hard on yourself on your bad days, it’s a process.

  • Look after your hygiene – it seems silly to say but personal hygiene may not feel like a priority when you experience depression, try and brush your teeth and have a shower, sometimes it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference!

TREATMENT

There are many different talking therapies that are available to support you if you have depression. These may include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Group Therapy

  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

  • Counselling


The type of therapy you are offered will depend on how severe your symptoms are and what is causing them. Depending on your symptoms and experiences, you may also be offered medication. There are different antidepressants available and it is important that you discuss this with your doctor as you may need to try a few types to find what works best for you.

If you aren’t experiencing many symptoms or they aren’t interfering with your day to day life too much, your doctor might suggest what is known as “watchful waiting”. This is when you monitor your mood for a short period of time as sometimes, mild symptoms of depression can go away on their own.