Depression can make you feel like your life is spiralling out of control. Find out why it happens and how it can affect you.
According to the Mental Health Foundation one in 20 of us will suffer clinical depression including a 'breakdown' at some stage in our lives. The term actually refers to a wide range of experiences when someone has hit rock bottom. There is no such thing in medical terms, and making a diagnosis based on such a flimsy term is near impossible.
Severe depression: This is the most common type of breakdown, where someone develops severe depression over a few weeks, where they can't sleep, feel on edge, have negative thoughts about themselves, feel more and more hopeless and then one day just can't get out of bed.
Collapse in social roles: Inability to keep doing your day-to-day job and playing your usual part in your family or social life.
Loss of sense of reality: When the person becomes delusional, 'has lost the plot'. A psychotic breakdown, although this is not always indicative of schizophrenia.
Why does it happen?
Breakdowns are caused by the interaction of the internal and the external, yet there is always a trigger or catalyst. Breakdowns are often associated with a major life event, such as the loss of a loved one or a broken relationship. Whether such life events cause a breakdown depends upon the individual's ability to cope with the situation. Those who are more vulnerable at the time are thus more at risk.
For more information, read our full factsheet on nervous breakdowns.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Although most people feel a little down when winter hits, SAD sufferers have symptoms that are severe enough to disrupt their lives and to cause considerable distress.
- Problems sleeping: oversleeping but not feeling refreshed; unable to get out of bed; needing a nap in the afternoon.
- Overeating: carbohydrate craving leading to weight gain.
- Depression: despair; misery; guilt; anxiety; normal tasks become frustratingly difficult; hopelessness.
- Family problems: avoiding your family and friends; irritability; loss of libido; feeling emotionally numb.
- Lethargy: too tired to cope; everything becomes an effort.
- Physical symptoms: often joint pain or stomach problems and a lowered resistance to infection.
- Behavioural problems: especially in younger people.
What causes it?
Apparently it stems from the lack of bright light in winter. The symptoms tend to start in September and last until April. They are at their worst in the darkest months.
For more information, read our full factsheet on SAD.
Many of us hit a crisis point where we can't see a way out and convince ourselves that life's not worth bothering about. What we often forget is that these kinds of thoughts aren't uncommon.
Try not to isolate yourself. Tell one person you trust. It could be a family member, someone at work or college, or a friend - they may have experienced similar feelings themselves - either way, you'll feel better for having opened up. Get an appointment to see your family doctor, or ask for a home visit.
If you find it hard talking face-to-face about your feelings without feeling ashamed or embarrassed, call a confidential helpline like the Samaritans as a starting point. They take a call every 12 seconds, and have years of experience dealing with all kinds of people in crisis. Samaritans: 08457 909090.
For further information see our factsheet on feeling suicidal.
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