Most people tend to feel sad or miserable at one time or another, but when these feelings get in the way of us living our lives, it’s a problem.
Depression is a mood disorder and the cause can been emotional, social, biological or psychological, and will only be diagnosed after the person has experienced persistent symptoms for two weeks or more. Everyone experiences depression in an individual way; however, there are some symptoms of depression that are said to be common:
- Restlessness and agitation
- Changes to sleep patterns (sleeping more or sleeping less)
- Feeling tired and having no energy
- Poor concentration and memory
- Feeling irritable, tearful and impatient
- Feeling helpless and worthless
- Thinking about suicide and/or self harm
It is estimated that one in six people will become depressed at some point in their lifetime, and it can range from mild depression lasting a few months, to major (clinical depression) which at its worst can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Various studies have found that depression is more common amongst people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans because of factors such as homophobia, bullying and social isolation.
Other types of depression you may have heard of:
- Bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression)
- Post-natal depression
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Just as a person’s experience of depression is unique, everyone responds to treatment differently.
This can mean that you need to try a few different things before you find something that works for you. When you visit your GP, you should expect to be offered one, or a combination of the following treatments:
- Psychological therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling)
- Self-help initiatives (support groups and physical activity programmes)
- Mindfulness based cognitive therapy
- Anti-depressant medication for moderate to severe depression
Overcoming and managing depression involves finding ways in which you can help yourself. The things you use to do this will depend on what works for you, but we have provided some tips to give you a starting point…
- Eating balanced diet containing lots of ‘good mood foods’ such as oily fish, whole grains, fruit and vegetables can give you more energy and boost important ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain.
- It might seem pointless when you’re feeling low, but looking after yourself by making sure that you shower daily and put on clean clothes can make you difference to how you feel and give you more confidence.
- As much as you might want to stay in bed all day, getting out of the house for some fresh air, even just for a short stroll can improve your mood.
- Fight the urge to isolate yourself from others and make sure that you use friends and family for support.
- Depression is an illness that can happen to anyone; the way you feel doesn’t make you weak or a failure, and neither does asking for help.
- Try not to increase your alcohol intake or use drugs and tobacco as a way of coping. All of these can actually be counter productive and lower your mood even further.
- Talking about your experiences with people who understand, like at a self help group, can help you to realise that you’re not alone and that you can overcome it.
- Having a good relationship with your GP can make it so much easier to talk to them when you’re feeling vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to ask about treatment choices or even for a second opinion.
- Complementary therapies such as aromatherapy, acupuncture and homeopathy are all good ways of relaxing the mind and body and can promote a better sense of wellbeing.
How can I support someone who had depression?
Remember that someone who has depression can’t help the way they’re feeling.
They are likely to have feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, so offering support, encouragement and just being there to listen can make a world of difference. Seeing someone you care about isolate themselves and struggle to cope with day-to-day life can be frustrating and upsetting; make sure that you also get some support for yourself.