Understanding Depression

What is Depression?

Whilst you might occasionally suffer from the odd day or two in life, when your mood feels low, or you lack energy or enthusiasm, it’s generally not something to worry about.  This is usually just down to a lack of sleep or generally feeling unwell and it will soon resolve itself.

These feelings should not be confused with depression which can be a long-term condition causing feelings of sadness, low mood, and lack of interest in pretty much everything in life. Whilst it’s not uncommon depression should also not be confused with conditions like grief or sadness.

Symptoms of depression will last for at least two weeks and can range from mild to severe.  It can affect people in the short term or long term and can range from mild to more severe forms. In extreme cases it can make you self-harm or cause you to feel suicidal.  You can suffer from mental and physical symptoms, and it can also affect your behaviour. Symptoms can differ between individuals as can their severity.

Psychological Symptoms

  • Feeling worthless and empty inside
  • Feeling sad and crying for no reason
  • Trouble concentrating on things
  • Memory loss and forgetfulness
  • Anger, frustration and irritability even at little things
  • Feeling restless or anxious and unable to settle and relax
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self-harming
  • Lack of confidence or self-esteem
  • Feeling hopeless and lost lacking feelings of self-worth

Physical symptoms

  • Insomnia or a disturbed sleep pattern
  • Loss of appetite resulting in weight loss
  • Lack of libido
  • Over eating taking comfort in food causing weight gain
  • Lethargy lacking energy and the desire to do anything
  • Slower speech and body movement
  • General muscle aches and pains
  • Headaches
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Behavioural Symptoms

  • Pacing about due to being restless wringing your hands in despair
  • Avoiding friends and family
  • Not wanting to socialise
  • Staying at home more
  • Losing interest in hobbies
  • Generally withdrawing from the world

Depression can have a big and often negative impact on your work, social and family life. Particularly personal relationships as your partner can feel pushed out if you withdraw into yourself.

Depression can also be caused by underlying or undiagnosed medical conditions such as

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Chronic pain syndromes
  • Lupus
  • Thyroid problems
  • Diabetes
  • B12 deficiency

amongst others, so you should always check with your doctor to rule out any physical cause for your symptoms.

What Causes Depression?

It can have several causes, physical health problems, genetic tendencies, past trauma including childhood trauma. Environmental factors like abuse, like losing your home or job. Personal loss whether it’s bereavement, or a relationship ending.

How do I get help?

If your depression has lasted more than two weeks then contact your doctor, who will prescribe antidepressants and/or self-help books and courses or possibly group therapy if it’s available in your area.

Self Help

Take care of yourself by eating healthily, exercising regularly and spending time in nature, which will help lift your mood. Avoiding alcohol, tobacco and caffeine products which initially may make you feel better but in the long term are detrimental to your mental and physical health.  Mindfulness can help including meditation and yoga.

If you still find yourself struggling with symptoms you may want to consider private therapy.  Talking therapies including counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on a one-to-one basis can be helpful.

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