Dealing with Depression
As many as 15 per cent of people will suffer from a bout of severe depression at some point in their lives, according to the NHS.
The World Health Organisation estimates that by the year 2020, depression will be the second largest cause of disability in the world.
NHS statistics show that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, but men are far more likely to commit suicide – though this could be because men are less likely to seek help for the condition.
Depression can affect anyone – even children, and around two per cent of teenagers suffer from the illness at some point, the NHS estimates.
Depression is an illness – though one with a lot of stigma attached. As an illness, it is not something you can “just snap out of”, nor is it anything to be ashamed of. It also means that in the vast majority of cases, depression is something that can be successfully treated.
The effects of depression
Depression affects your whole body; your mood, sleeping patterns, eating habits and outlook. It can last weeks or months, and without treatment can linger for years and have a serious impact on your whole life; from relationships to work and everyday activities.
According to the NHS, typical symptoms include:
- Continuous low mood or sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of guilt
- Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- A lack of motivation and little interest in things
- Difficulty making decisions
- Lack of enjoyment
- Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming someone else
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Reduced sex drive
Levels of depression
There are different types and levels of depression. Not all are complex and most cases can be easily treated by visiting your GP.
Doctors describe depression by how serious it and how it affects your life:
- Mild depression has some impact on your daily life
- Moderate depression has a significant impact on your daily life
- Severe depression makes the activities of daily life nearly impossible. A small number of people with severe depression may also have psychotic symptoms
Causes of depression
- Psychological – where a stressful event can lead to depression
- Physical – the levels of chemicals in your brain can affect your mood, and in some cases, imbalances can cause depression
- Social – going out less and doing fewer activities can lead to depression, but can also be a symptom of the illness
Some people are genetically more prone to depression, and if you have a family history of the condition, you’ll be more likely to suffer from it yourself.
Drinking excessively, using recreational drugs and some types of prescription medicine can also contribute to feelings of depression.
If you think you're suffering from depression, visit your GP who will be able to diagnose you and advise the best possible treatment options.
Your GP will advise you to try a variety of different treatment methods depending on how severe your depression is and how long you have been suffering from it for. These include:
- Watchful waiting – if you're diagnosed with mild depression and your GP thinks you might recover without treatment, they might simply want to see you again in two weeks’ time for a second assessment
- Exercise – some people find that regular exercise, such as going for a walk or to the gym, can help. Your GP might be able to refer you to a qualified fitness trainer
- Self help – your GP might recommend self help books or what is known as computerised cognitive behaviour therapy
- Talking treatment – your GP might feel that talking through your issues, with friends and family or with a counsellor or group
- Antidepressants – if you have persistent moderate or severe depression, your GP might put you on a course of antidepressant drugs
Mental health organisations
A number of charities and organisations can also help deal with the effects of depression if you don’t yet feel comfortable talking to your GP.
The Samaritans – provides confidential non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide. You can call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.
Depression Alliance – is a leading UK charity for sufferers and its web site contains information about symptoms, treatments, campaigns and local groups.
SANE – is a charity dealing specifically with depression and other mental illnesses, and helps ensure that sufferers and their families no longer feel neglected and isolated. It also has a helpline which can be contacted on 0845 767 8000.
Mind – is a mental health charity that can suggest a number of helpful organisations, as well as offering a great deal of information on depression and how to fight it. You can call Mind’s information line on 0845 766 0163.