Depression

Many people will experience some form of depressive symptoms at some point in their life, but if the symptoms become persistent and affect your functioning in everyday life, it might be time to seek help.

If you are suffering from depression you will be experiencing persistent low mood, typically lasting for longer than a couple of weeks, and which will be having a negative impact on your everyday life.

Symptoms of depression

The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person and symptoms can manifest in the way you feel emotionally, the way you think, how you behave and how you feel physically. Signs of depression can range from feeling low and hopeless, to changes in appetite or sleeping pattern. Depression and anxiety are often linked and many people with depression will also have symptoms of anxiety.

Depression symptoms can range from mild to severe. Mild depression will have some impact on your life, and leave you feeling low. Severe depression will make it very difficult to get through the day and may even lead to feeling suicidal.

Depression can change the way you behave which can then have a negative impact on your emotional and physical symptoms. You might stop doing the activities that you once enjoyed, or withdraw from friends and family. This then increases the feeling of isolation and hopelessness.

Signs and symptoms of depression include:
  • Physical
    • Fatigue
    • Trouble with sleeping - not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
    • Restlessness
    • Aches, pains, headaches or cramps
    • Digestive problems
    • Sexual problems
  • Cognitive
    • Loss of interest in things once pleasurable
    • A sense of unreality
    • Trouble concentrating
  • Emotional
    • Persistent sadness
    • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness
    • Pessimism and hopelessness
    • Irritability
    • Feeling ‘empty’
    • Feeling anxious or on edge
    • No self-confidence or self-esteem
  • Behavioural
    • Overeating or having no appetite
    • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
    • Finding it difficult to speak or think clearly
    • Avoiding social events/activities you usually enjoy

Different types of depression

There are many different types of depression.

  • Prenatal and postnatal depression - occurs during pregnancy and also weeks and months after becoming a parent. It is most common in women, but men can be diagnosed with it too.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - is a depression that typically (but not always) occurs in the winter.

Causes of depression

There is no one clear cause of depression. Sometimes an episode of depression can be triggered by a difficult life changing event, it can also be caused by a build-up of smaller stresses. Some episodes of depression may not have an obvious trigger at all and you may struggle to understand why exactly you are feeling this way.

Factors that trigger depression include:
  • Redundancy
  • Bereavement
  • Divorce
  • Illness
  • Financial worries
  • Chronic pain & long term conditions such as diabetes or COPD
  • Problems at work
  • Physical health problems
  • Chronic health problems
  • Life threatening diseases
  • Homelessness or housing problems
  • Genetic inheritance

How to look after yourself when living with depression

The best treatment plan for dealing with depression will depend on the severity of your depression and the length of time you have been suffering depression symptoms.

Some lifestyle changes that can help you cope with mild depression include:

  • Keeping physically active if you can
  • Connecting with people around you
  • Continuing to do activities that usually make you happy
  • Get enough sleep
  • Retain a healthy and balanced diet

The type of treatment needed will depend on how much your symptoms are affecting you, as well as your personal preference.

Generally, the treatment for depression involves a talking therapies such as CBT, and medication. Other treatments also include self-help materials and peer support programmes.

Breathing exercises are also a beneficial way to help manage your anxiety and worries. This can help you cope and enhance your ability to feel more in control, and may also help with some of the physical symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension.

How to support a loved one experiencing depression

When someone you love or care about is suffering from depression it can be hard to know the best way you can support them. Especially if their depression is severe and it feels as though they haven’t responded to any previous attempts to help. However, even if they find it hard to express it, often just knowing that someone is there for them can help someone suffering from depression to feel less alone.

  • Be open

    Be open but not overbearing. Many people with depression find it hard to talk about how they are feeling for fear of being judged or that their experiences will be dismissed by those that don’t understand. Reassure your loved one that it’s good to talk and perfectly okay to ask for help if they are struggling. Being open yourself about your own feelings and emotions can help put them at ease and encourage them to share their experiences with you.

  • Give them space

    On the other hand, it can be tempting to try and do everything for someone that is struggling with depression or always ask how they are feeling. Whilst this is often done with good intentions it isn’t always the most helpful for someone experiencing a depressive episode. Generally, it is good to encourage them to keep doing things for themselves and not allow their depression to define them as a person. Even though they are going through a difficult experience they are still your friend or family member and will appreciate you treating them the same as you normally would.

  • Check in

    Someone experiencing depression may withdraw from activities that they once enjoyed or possibly isolate themselves from groups of friends or family members. If you notice someone acting this way that seems out of character, check in with them. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture just a message to check in with them and let them know that you are there for them can be enough to improve their mood.