Depression can be a very disturbing and frightening experience People can often feel that depression descends upon them from nowhere and feel powerless to understand or change how they are feeling.
All of our counsellors here at ASCA North East have long standing experience in helping clients work through the past experiences of their lives, their thoughts and feelings about themselves and the world; and the ways they have learned to cope.
Depression can in basic terms be broken down into three areas:
- Depressed Feelings
- Depressed Thoughts
- Depressed Behaviour
What is Depression?
The term 'depression' creates much concern and often confusion and worry. It's often used to describe when someone is feeling ‘low', extremely ‘miserable', and 'in a bad mood that sometimes cannot be escaped from or relieved.
Over your lifetime you have a 1 in 5 chance of becoming depressed.
Doctors use the word in a couple of different ways. They can use it to describe the symptom of a ‘very low mood', or to refer to a particular specific illness, a ‘depressive illness’.
Doctors make a diagnosis of depression after assessing the severity of a person's low mood, other symptoms and the length of the problem.
People who have experienced an episode of depression are at a higher risk of developing another in the future.
A small proportion may experience an episode of depression as part of a bipolar affective disorder, which used to be more commonly known as (manic depression), which is normally identified by areas of both low and high moods.
Who gets depressed?
Depression is a very common illness, and anybody can suffer from this type of mental health problem.
Between 5 and 10 per cent of the population are suffering from the illness to some extent at any one time.
Women are 2 times as likely to get depression as men. Bipolar affective disorder is far less common than an average depressive illness with a life-time risk of around one to two per cent. Men and women are equally affected.
Becoming depressed is definitely not a sign of weakness.
There are no particular 'personality types' that are more at risk than others.
What causes depression?
- Genetics or early life experiences may make some people more vulnerable to particular mental health issues.
- Doctor’s even today in the 21st century do not fully understand the causes of depression.
- Depression can be initiated by some physical illnesses drug treatments and more often these days illegal drugs.
- Very Stressful life events and anxiety provoking circumstances, such as losing a hard earned job or a relationship ending, may very well bring on an episode of depression.
It’s very often extremely difficult to identify a 'reason' in many cases, and this can be upsetting for people who want to better understand the reasons why they are feeling very down, miserable and low. Depression, like any illness, can appear for no apparent reason. It’s now clear that there are changes in the way the brain operates when a person is depressed.
- The most Modern brain scans that look at how the brain is working have now began to show that some areas of the brain are not working as well as they normally would.
- Depressed people have consistently higher than normal levels of stress hormones.
- Various chemical based systems in the brain may not be working correctly, one of these chemicals is known as serotonin.
- Antidepressants may help to reverse these changes.
Symptoms of depression.
- Difficulty sleeping or waking early in the morning, although some feel that they are unable to get out of bed and face their daily activities.
- Feeling tired a lot of the time and having little or none of the usual energy.
- Being irritable, Feeling inadequate.
- Feeling restless, tense and anxious.
- Finding it much more difficult than usual to make decisions.
- Losing interest in sex or sexual activities.
- Losing your normal self-confidence.
- Avoiding other people and conversations.
- Finding it difficult to concentrate and think straight.
- Feeling hopeless and that nothing will make things better.
- Feeling guilty about who you are and what you have done.
- Thinking about suicide, this is very common. If you as a person feel this way, its always best to talk to somebody about it or talk to your doctor. If you think somebody else might be thinking about suicide ask them about how they are feeling – it will not make them more likely to commit suicide.
What to do if you are depressed.
- Try your very best to talk to people about how you feel. Don't hide your problems away. Do not believe the old fashioned myth that depression is a sign of weakness to get help for your problems, in the same way that it would not be to get medical help for a broken arm or an eye infection.
- Although you may not be able to do the things you would normally like to do, try to keep active as much as you possibly can. Lying in bed or sitting around continually thinking about your problems can make them feel much worse than they really are. Physical exercise such as walking can also help.
- Do not increase your alcohol intake to try and 'drown your sadness' or help you to sleep better. Alcohol will only make the depression worse and very much harder to treat.
- If you are experiencing problems sleeping, try not to lie in bed ruminating about your problems. Try and do something to take your mind off your worries, such as reading, listening to your favourite music or doing something which you really enjoy.
- If you are feeling suicidal or desperate contact an organisation, such as the Samaritans.
- Always keep in mind that you are suffering from an illness. It is not you being weak, and you can not simply change your thinking overnight. Your illness is treatable. You are also not alone. Depression is extremely common in today’s busy society.
Treatments for Depression.
Not really having any of your normal interest in day to day activities, interests and everyday life. Quite Often a person finds it extremely difficult to gain the usual pleasures from activities that would normally be enjoyable. Having a poor appetite, no interest in food and losing weight although some people overeat and put on weight, comfort eating.
Occasionally when we are going through a bad time in our life, it’s very often enough to talk through our issues with a friend or family member. Sometimes, this may not be enough and we may need to obtain professional advice.
The most important thing to remember about depression is that it can be treated.
There are different types of treatment. These usually include medication and talking therapies with qualified professionals.
- There are several different forms of psychotherapy.
- Just by simply talking to somebody or your general practitioner about your problems is in itself a form of psychotherapy and can help.
- It's psychologically healthier, to be able to talk about your problems than keeping your feelings to yourself and allowing them to possibly get very much worse over a period of time.
- More formal psychotherapy includes counselling.
Generally speaking, Psychotherapies are as effective as medication for the treatment of mild to moderate depression. However, for more severe illnesses, medication is far more likely to be needed but may be supplemented with psychotherapy.
When taking your medication, it’s extremely important to remember:
- To take your medication as directed and regularly.
- You will not be likely to see any significant improvement in your symptoms for two to four weeks after commencing your medication.
- Once you have begun to respond, you should generally feel some improvement over several weeks.
- The most up to date World Health Organisation guidelines recommend that patients continue on and take their medication for six months after having recovered. This is to prevent a recurrence of the illness when the medication is ceased.
- Antidepressants are effective for both treating episodes of depression and also for preventing further episodes of illness. Some patients who have had severe or many episodes of illness are therefore strongly advised to take medication for a quite some time.
- Stopping to take your medication once you feel well is a common cause of a recurrence of the symptoms of depression. You would therefore only stop after discussion with your general practitioner.
- Slowly reducing your antidepressants should not become a problem, although usually you should gradually reduce the dose of the medication over a few weeks rather than stopping too quickly. If you cease antidepressants abruptly you may notice headaches and anxiety, stomach upset, sleeping problems or other symptoms.