We all have moments when we feel unhappy; it's a normal response to unpleasant events. Clinical depression tends to be more severe than simple unhappiness, and it lasts longer. Learn how to recognise depression and deal with it here.
People with depression can feel hopelessly sad. Sometimes it is even possible to be depressed without having the usual 'miserable' feelings. There are lots of different signs which may point to depressive illness - the main ones are listed below. Keep in mind that most depressed people only suffer from a few of these feelings.
You may have noticed a change in the way you are responding or feeling about things. The following points can be indications that it could be depression:
- Persistent sadness, lasting two weeks or more;
- Loss of interest in your favourite things;
- Finding no fun or enjoyment in life;
- Loss of self-confidence;
- Feeling guilty, bad, unlikeable, or not good enough;
- Feeling empty inside;
- Feeling useless or unable to cope with life;
- Feeling bored all the time;
- Increased feelings of anxiety;
- Can't see a future for yourself;
- Thinking everything is pointless;
- Thinking life is not worth living;
- Thoughts of death or suicide;
- Wanting to go to sleep and never wake up again;
- Especially low mood in the mornings;
- Feeling more irritable, frustrated, or aggressive than usual;
- Trouble concentrating on things, poor memory.
Other factors may include:
- Loss of energy, tired all the time;
- Changed sleep pattern - difficulty getting to sleep, bad nightmares, waking in the night, waking up too early, or sleeping much more than usual;
- Spending less time socialising with friends or family;
- Loss of sexual desire;
- Changed eating pattern - loss of appetite and weight loss, or comfort eating;
- Getting lower grades than usual at school, college, or university;
- Not going to school/college/work, or becoming disruptive;
- Becoming a hypochondriac, worrying lots about illness;
- More headaches, backaches or stomach aches than you normally get;
- Turning to alcohol or drugs to try to make yourself feel better.
Depression can be caused by factors like bereavement, events in childhood, stress and relationship difficulties, or internal problems linked to hormone imbalance, changes in brain chemistry or blood sugar levels. Recreational drug use and binge drinking are also common triggers.
Other symptoms include fatigue, sleeping problems, irritability and weight loss. Most cases are successfully treated with medication, plus some form of therapy such as counselling.
- Antidepressant drugs work by boosting natural brain chemicals levels which can take a nose-dive during depression. Give at least two weeks for antidepressants to kick in, but go back to your doctor if there's no change after four to six weeks.
- Counselling can help you get to grips with the root of your depression. Your doctor can recommend a psychotherapist or self-help group.
- Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) teaches you to question negative thoughts while developing a more realistic outlook on life.
- Relaxation techniques can help beat the stress and anxiety often linked to depression. Try exercise, yoga, meditation or massage.
- A change of lifestyle can help. Reduce your workload, cut out 'props' like alcohol and drugs, and improve your exercise and nutrition habits.
Depression is a treatable condition. Many people make a full recovery without treatment, but treatment makes recovery happen more quickly. Therapies have to be tailored to the individual patient.
If you are feeling depressed, the best thing to do is contact your GP. Remember that even if you are feeling hopeless at the moment, depression is a treatable illness, and the bad feelings will not stay with you forever.
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