DEPRESSION

5 min read

WHAT IS DEPRESSION

The word 'depression' is commonly used to describe feelings of sadness. Everyone can go through short periods of feeling down but when it goes on for longer then it could turn into clinical depression.

This could have an impact on the following parts of peoples lives:

  • Relationships with family and friends
  • Work 
  • Doing the simplest of tasks like getting out of bed.
  • Doing things that we love.


WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 'FEELING LOW' AND DEPRESSION?


Most people experience ups and downs in their life, and during the difficult times can feel unhappy, or low in mood. Typically when a low mood happens, the feelings pass or lessen within a short period of time. In these types of cases we are not usually 'depressed', but are experiencing normal, temporary feelings of sadness, frustration or stress. Making some small changes, such as resolving a difficult situation or talking about it or getting more sleep, can help an individual to improve their mood. 

A low mood that doesn't go away, however, maybe a sign of depression. 

Depression involves more than just feelings of unhappiness, clinical depression is an illness that involves both the body and mind.  The difference between depression and feeling unhappy or low in mood is an inability to shake off the feelings of sadness, which will last more than two weeks. In addition, a person who is experiencing depression will find it difficult to function on a daily basis, and in severe cases, the person may even feel that life is not worth living. A person with clinical depression cannot simply 'pull themselves together' and get better. if a person does not receive treatment for their clinical depression, it will progressively get worse and could last for years.


WHAT IS PSYCHOTIC DEPRESSION

Psychosis (also called a 'psychotic experience' or 'psychotic episode') is when you perceive or interpret reality in a very different way from people around you. You might be said to 'lose touch' with reality.

The most common types of psychotic experiences are hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking and speech. Psychosis affects people in different ways. You might experience it once, have short episodes throughout your life, or live with it most of the time. 

Some people have positive experiences of psychosis. For example, if you see the faces of loved ones or hear their voices you may find this comforting. Some people say it helps them understand the world or makes them more creative. 

However, for other people psychosis can be a very difficult or frightening experience. You may find that it:

  • affects your behaviour or disrupts your life
  • makes you feel very tired or overwhelmed
  • makes you feel anxious, scared, threatened or confused
  • leaves you finding it very difficult to trust some organisations or people.

It can also be upsetting if people around you dismiss your experiences as untrue when they seem very real to you. You may feel misunderstood and frustrated if other people don't understand. It might help to share our section for friends and family with them.

There are a lot of misunderstandings about what it means to experience psychosis. Lots of people wrongly think that the word 'psychotic' means 'dangerous'. The media often shows people with psychosis behaving like this even though very few people who experience psychosis ever hurt anyone else.

It's important to remember that you aren't alone and you don't have to put up with people treating you badly.


WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION?

There are several ideas about what causes depression. It can vary a lot between different people, and for some people a combination of different factors may cause their depression. Some find that they become depressed without any obvious reason. 

Childhood experiences

There is good evidence to show that going through difficult experiences in your childhood can make you vulnerable to experiencing depression later in life. This could be:

  • physical, sexual or emotional abuse
  • neglect
  • the loss of someone close to you
  • traumatic events
  • an unstable family situation.

Research shows that going through lots of smaller challenging experiences can have a bigger impact on your vulnerability to depression than experiencing one major traumatic event.

Difficult experiences during your childhood can have a big impact on your self-esteem and how you learned to cope with difficult emotions and situations. This can make you feel less able to cope with life's ups and downs, and lead to depression later in life.

Life events

In many cases, you might find your depression has been triggered by an unwelcome, stressful or traumatic event. This could be:

  • losing your job or unemployment
  • the end of a relationship
  • bereavement
  • major life changes, like changing job, moving house or getting married
  • being physically or sexually assaulted
  • being bullied or abused.


It's not just negative experiences that cause depression, but how we deal with them. If you don't have much support to help you cope with the difficult emotions that come with these events, or if you're already dealing with other difficult situations, you might find that a low mood develops into depression. 

Other mental health problems

If you experience another mental health problem, it's common to also experience depression. This might be because coping with the symptoms of your mental health problem can trigger depression. You may find you experience depression if you also experience:

Physical health problems

Poor health can contribute to your risk of developing depression. Many health problems can be quite difficult to manage, and can have a big impact on your mood. These could be:

  • chronic (long-term) physical health problems
  • life-threatening physical illnesses
  • physical health problems that significantly change your lifestyle.

You might be offered support for your mental health at the same time as you are treated for a physical health problem, as part of your overall treatment.

There are some physical health problems that can cause depression:

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

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

Genetic inheritance

Although no specific genes for depression have been identified, research has shown that if you have a close family member with depression, you are more likely to experience depression yourself.

While this might be caused by our biology, this link could also be because we usually learn behaviour and ways of coping from the people around us as we grow up.

Medication, recreational drugs and alcohol

Depression can be a side effect of a lot of different medicines. If you are feeling depressed after starting any kind of medication, check the patient information leaflet to see whether depression is a side effect, or ask your doctor. If you think a drug is causing your depression, you can talk to your doctor about taking an alternative, especially if you are expecting your treatment to last some time.

Alcohol and recreational drugs can both cause depression. Although you might initially use them to make yourself feel better, or to distract yourself, they can make you feel worse overall. 

Sleep, diet and exercise

A poor diet and lack of sleep and exercise can affect your mood, and make it harder for you to cope with difficult things going on in your life.

Although a poor diet, or not getting enough sleep or exercise, cannot directly cause depression, they can make you more vulnerable to developing it.


WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION?

Here are some common signs of depression you may experience.

How you might feel

  • down, upset or tearful
  • restless, agitated or irritable
  • guilty, worthless and down on yourself
  • empty and numb
  • isolated and unable to relate to other people
  • finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
  • a sense of unreality
  • no self-confidence or self-esteem
  • hopeless and despairing
  • suicidal.

How you might behave

  • avoiding social events and activities you usually enjoy
  • self-harming or suicidal behaviour
  • difficulty speaking, thinking clearly or making decisions
  • losing interest in sex
  • difficulty remembering or concentrating on things
  • using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
  • difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
  • feeling tired all the time
  • no appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight
  • physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
  • moving very slowly, or being restless and agitated.

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MYSELF WHEN GOING THROUGH DEPRESSION?

There are as number of things you can do yourself to help keep going through the depression but here are some examples you can try:

  • Talk to someone you trust-Family member or friend
  • Join a support group.
  • Mindfulness or yoga
  • Exercise
  • Have a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Keep a diary
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Listen to music or podcasts.

Some people find these ideas useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. If something isn't working for you (or doesn't feel possible just now), you can try something else, or come back to it another time. 

See my self help guides for more information

LOCAL SUPPORT AND TREATMENTS FOR DEPRESSION


There are a number of assistance out there for someone who is suffering with depression, here are some examples that you can go to for help: 

  • Watchful waiting which is when an individual is first diagnosed with mild depression and then the GP may suggest waiting a while to see if the depression improves by itself.
  • Exercise
  • Self help groups
  • Talking therapy
  • Antidepressants
  • Combination therapy
  • Mental health teams 
  • Local charities.


If you feel like you are really struggling then always seek professional help as they are trained to help you with what you are going through.



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