Depression affects many people and shows itself in many different forms. These are some of the things you may experience if you are depressed:
- Tired all the time
- Sense of apathy; feeling numb
- Disliking, even hating, yourself and other people
- Not being able to think properly, a loss of attention and concentration
- Never really enjoying anything, always seeing the worst in everything
- Finding even the simplest tasks seem too much to do
- Change in sleeping pattern, e.g. waking up very early and not being able to sleep again or sleeping more than usual
- There may be a loss of appetite and loss of interest in sex
- You may find you want to smoke and/ or drink alcohol more
- You may feel very anxious
- Sometimes there may be physical symptoms of headaches, aching, muscles, dizziness and sweating
These are symptoms which people have recorded but it is important to remember that depression affects individuals in different ways. For example, some people may alternate between depression and a state of over excitability and uncontrollable behaviour. There is also the depression experienced by some mothers after their babies are born.
Causes of Depression
The exact cause of depression is not clear. No one is really sure why some people get depressed and others don’t. People whose relatives have suffered depression are more likely to have it, although not everyone who has a family member with depression is going to develop it.
It is now recognised that depression is a medical condition that may be an imbalance in the chemicals of the brain. If this imbalance occurs it is thought that not having enough of a chemical called serotonin may result in someone becoming depressed.
Our previous life experiences can influence how we feel about ourselves. Depression is often related to other life experiences, for example, bereavement, divorce, losing a job and so on.
The way you respond when things go wrong for you can affect whether you become depressed.
If you keep all your feelings close to yourself and find it hard to share difficulties with other people, you are more likely to become depressed. It may be important to remember the link between physical and mental health. Influenza can be followed by periods of depression, as can poor diet and a general lack of fitness. Changes in the balance of hormones after childbirth can affect women
What can you do?
It is helpful to remember two important characteristics of depression. First, it feeds on itself, i.e. you get depressed and then get more depressed about being depressed. Secondly, it can occupy an enormous amount of your time and attention. The National Association for mental health (MIND) offers some valuable advice about how to help yourself:
•Find things to do that are Interesting so that, just for a while, you may forget about being depressed
•Be physical: walk, run, dance, cycle, play a sport
•Do anything that will make you laugh
•Look after yourself physically
•Take care of your appearance and make your home as attractive as you can
•Sometimes try to take a break from your usual routine
•Ask for help
•Don’t be afraid of making necessary changes
•Don’t cover up your feelings. If you need to cry, then cry. If you need to get angry, get angry
Your GP may prescribe anti-depressant drugs which help to lighten your mood. They do not take away the cause of the depression but the relaxation of your mood allows you some space to begin to put things right for yourself.
Sometimes GP’s will prescribe tranquilisers or medication to help you sleep. It is always important to keep in close touch with your GP at this time and consult before stopping any medication which has been prescribed.
Counselling/ Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Talking with somebody else helps you to express your feelings and understand any problems which you may have, and to begin to tackle those. It also offers a place where you can begin to replace some of your negative thoughts with more positive ones.
What can friends and relatives do?
Other people can help by listening sympathetically and by showing their affection and support. They can also remind you to look after yourself and to seek the help which you need. Sometimes they may help by doing things for you, like shopping and other tasks. At other times, they may offer support by helping you to do things for yourself.
Where to get further help
In addition to your usual sources of support from home and work, counselling is available through your Trust / Employer - see your Intranet for more details