What is depression?
Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.
Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed, you feel persistently down most of the day for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.
Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms, and it should be treated as soon as possible to prevent it from worsening over time or causing problems in one’s work, family, or social life. Depression is not a sign of weakness or something you can “just get over.”
The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery and prevent it from coming back again in the future.
Symptoms of depression
Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.
Common symptoms include feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, losing interest in the things you used to enjoy, and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety.
There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains.
The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while severe depression can make you feel suicidal, that life is no longer worth living.
Frequently, depression may arise during or following a very stressful experience like losing a job, going through a break-up, or the death of a loved one. Most people experience feelings of stress, unhappiness, or anxiety during difficult times. However, if a low mood persists for longer than expected or causes significant problems in your life like being unable to work or care for yourself or others, it may be a sign of depression.
There are many other symptoms of depression. You may notice just a few of the symptoms below or you may experience all of them.
The psychological symptoms of depression include:
- Continuous low mood or sadness
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- Having low self-esteem
- Feeling tearful
- Feeling guilt-ridden
- Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- Having no motivation or interest in things
- Finding it difficult to make decisions
- Not getting any enjoyment out of life
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
The physical symptoms of depression include:
- Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- Increase or decrease in appetite or weight
- Digestive issues
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Lack of energy
- Low sex drive (loss of libido)
- Changes to your menstrual cycle
- Disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning
The social symptoms of depression include:
- Not doing well at work
- Avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
- Neglecting your hobbies and interests
- Having difficulties in your home and family life
Depression can often come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people try to cope with their symptoms without realizing they’re unwell. It can sometimes take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.
What causes depression?
Sometimes there’s a trigger for depression. Life-changing events, such as bereavement, losing your job, the end of a relationship, or having a baby, can bring it on. But you can also become depressed for no obvious reason.
People with a family history of depression are more likely to experience it themselves. Depression is also more likely for those who have experienced trauma like physical or sexual abuse.
Depression is fairly common, affecting about one in 10 people at some point during their life. It is more common in women than in men and among younger adults compared to older adults, but it can affect anyone at any time.
Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression, but it’s best not to delay. We know there is a lot of information on the Internet, and it’s hard to find trustworthy sources and a clear path to get started. So let’s talk about the components of successful depression treatment:
We all face emotional challenges in life. It’s not easy and it takes courage to take the first step to get better. Improving your mood and energy is a process that starts with you and flourishes with commitment.
Like other organs in the body, the brain sometimes needs help to balance its functions such as energy and mood. Medications for depression are called antidepressants. They work by balancing natural substances in the brain, known as neurotransmitters.
Antidepressants are prescribed by physicians and nurses specializing in mental health. These professionals will do a thorough assessment by asking questions about your symptoms, history, and environment to decide if medications are recommended for you.
Antidepressants are non-controlled substances, which means that they aren’t classified as having euphoric or addictive properties. However, a withdrawal effect can occur when stopping or reducing antidepressants, so it’s important to consult with your health provider before changing how you take your medication.
Behavior therapy is a treatment approach that involves understanding patterns that keep you feeling depressed and finding ways to break those patterns by changing your thoughts and behaviors. There are lots of different types of behavioral therapies with cognitive behavioral therapy being the most well-known. Behavior therapy has the objective of helping you feel better by understanding your mind, gaining control of your emotions, and changing behaviors.
Just like physical exercises can reduce high blood pressure or cholesterol, therapy exercises reduce depression by helping you develop new ways of thinking and new coping skills.