Depression is more than just feeling unhappy for a few days.

Depression is more than just feeling unhappy for a few days.

We may all go through spells of feeling down and distressed but, when you’re depressed, you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people still think that depression is trivial or not a real health condition. They’re wrong.

Depression is a real illness with real and painful symptoms, it’s not a sign of weakness or something you should feel ashamed of. Nor can you just snap out of it, or just pull yourself together.

However, there is good news. With the right treatment and support, most people can make a full recovery.

How you can tell if you are depressed

Depression affects people’s lives in different ways and can have a wide range of symptoms. These range from a lasting feeling of sadness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you enjoy and feeling very tearful. It may even come with feelings of anxiety. There are often physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive and complaining of various aches and pains.

My Emotional Symptoms

  • I feel down in the dumps most days
  • I feel restless and agitated
  • I become tearful easily
  • I feel numb, empty and full of despair
  • I feel isolated and unable to relate to other people
  • I am unusually irritable or impatient
  • I find no pleasure in life or things I usually enjoy
  • I feel helpless
  • I am disinterested in sex
  • I feel a sense of unreality

MY Behaviour

  • I’m not doing the things that I usually enjoy
  • I am avoiding social events
  • I have cut myself off from others and can’t ask for help
  • I am self-harming
  • I find it difficult to speak

 My Thinking

  • I am finding it difficult to remember things
  • I find it hard to concentrate or make decisions
  • I blame myself and feel guilty about a lot of things
  • I have no self-confidence or self-esteem
  • I have a lot of negative thoughts
  • My future seems bleak
  • I wonder what the point is
  • I have had thoughts and I am thinking about suicide

MY PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS

  • I have difficulty in sleeping
  • I am sleeping much more than I usually do
  • I feel tired and I have no energy
  • I have lost my appetite, and I am losing weight
  • I am eating more than usual and putting on weight
  • I have physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
  • I am moving very slowly
  • I am using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than I usually do

The above are all symptoms of depression and, if you ticked off five or more of them, you may well have depression.

The presentation and causes of depression are different for everyone that experiences it.

You may not realise what’s going on because, sometimes, your problems seem to be physical, rather than mental or emotional. There are also some other mental health problems often linked to depression.

These can vary in their severity. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low and, at its most severe, depression can leave you feeling suicidal and that life is no longer worth living.

For a more detailed list, read more about the symptoms of depression.

Many people experience feelings of stress, sadness or anxiety during difficult times. A low mood may improve after a short time, rather than being a sign of depression.

If you’ve been feeling low for more than a few days, please contact me for an informal and confidential chat.

Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression but it’s best not to delay. The sooner you see a doctor and a counsellor, the sooner you can start to feel like yourself and be on your way to recovery.

Sometimes, there is a trigger for depression. Life-changing events, such as

  • Bereavement
  • Losing your job
  • Having a baby

can all bring on an episode of depression.

However, other contributing factors are that people with a family history of depression are also more likely to experience depression.

But it is also possible to become depressed for no apparent or obvious reason.

Depression is quite common and affects about one in 10 of us at some point. It affects men and women, young and old. Depression can also strike children. Studies have shown that about 4% of children aged five to sixteen in the UK are likely to be affected by depression.

 

Symptoms of Depression

What is the difference between depression and just feeling low?

In general, a low mood can include feelings of sadness, an anxious feeling or feeling worried. It can also come with tiredness, low self-esteem, frustration and anger.

Under normal conditions, a low mood will tend to improve by itself after a short time. This can be helped by making some small but significant changes in your life, such as taking steps to resolve a difficult situation or talking about your problems with a trusted friend, getting more sleep and drinking less can improve your mood. A low mood that doesn’t go away can be a sign of depression.

 Symptoms of depression can include some or all of the following:

  • a continuous low mood or sadness
  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • having low self-esteem 
  • feeling tearful
  • feeling guilt-ridden
  • feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • having no motivation or interest in things
  • finding it difficult to make decisions
  • not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
  • feeling anxious or worried

Read more about the symptoms of depression, including the physical and social effects. Depression can also come on at specific points in your life, such as the winter months (SAD) and after the birth of a child (Postnatal Depression).

 

Some Considerations on the Causes of Depression 1.

What are the causes of Depression?

The causes of depression vary for each individual and can happen for one or more reasons. It is also possible that it may appear for no obvious reason.

Loss and Bereavement

Events or experiences can often trigger bouts of depression. It could be following the death of someone close or a major life change such as losing a job, moving home, the loss of a much loved pet or simply moving from one phase of life into another, e.g. retirement, children leave home, or you come to realise that you may never have a family of your own.

Recovery is not just surviving the negative experience that causes the depression but how we deal with it. If the feelings provoked are not expressed or explored at the time, they can fester and contribute towards depression.

Anger

In some cases, people call depression “Frozen Anger” or view it as anger turned inwards or at yourself . You may have experienced something which left you feeling angry and helpless, and if you were unable or not allowed to express your feelings at the time – perhaps because you were a child at the time, or your feelings were unacceptable to others – the anger may become internalised and this is then expressed as depression.

Life events

In many cases, the first time you become depressed may have been triggered by an unwelcome or traumatic event like being sacked, divorced, physically or sexually assaulted or suffering the loss of a loved one.

Childhood experiences

It may also occur if you experienced a traumatic or disturbing event in childhood or were abused physically or emotionally, or were not helped or taught good coping skills as you grew up. This can leave you feeling less able to cope with difficulties as they arise as an adult.

Physical conditions

Some physical conditions may also cause depression, but this is sometimes overlooked because the focus is on physical symptoms:

  • conditions affecting the brain or nervous system
  • hormonal problems, especially thyroid and parathyroid problems
  • symptoms relating to the menstrual cycle or the menopause
  • low blood sugar
  • sleep problems

It is worth considering that, if any of the above conditions apply to you, make sure your doctor knows about them. Some of these problems can be diagnosed by simple blood tests and your doctor may suggest that these are done to help make the right diagnosis, or you can ask for blood tests if you think they might be relevant for you.

Side effects of prescription medication

Depression is often a side effect of different medicines; an example could be that some people become depressed after a heart attack and this may be because they are taking beta blocker medicine as part of their treatment.

If you are feeling depressed after starting a course of medication, it is worth first looking at the patient information leaflet that came with the medication to see if depression is listed among the side effects. If you think a medication may be causing your depression, you could discuss this with your doctor to see if there is an alternative medication that you could take, particularly if you expect the treatment to continue for some time.

Diet

Poor diet and general lack of fitness can both contribute to depression. Trying to take some exercise, even simply taking a walk each day, may contribute to feeling more at ease.

Street drugs and alcohol

You may feel tempted to have a drink to make yourself feel better. Alcohol is a recognised depressant and this will tend to make you feel worse. Drugs can also make you feel more depressed, especially if you use them on a regular basis.