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All About Depression
What is depression?
Many of us say “I feel depressed” when we feel sad or miserable. But usually these feelings pass after a while. But clinical depression is when these feelings are disabling and interfering with your life. Clinical depression can stop people from leading a normal life, it makes everything harder to do and everything can seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make people commit suicide or simply give up the will to live.
How do I know if I’m depressed?
You may be ‘clinically’ depressed if you have most of the following symptoms:
- depressed mood most of the day, almost every day, which can be noticed by others.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, almost every day
- significant weight loss if not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite almost every day.
- insomnia or hypersomnia almost every day
- psychomotor agitation or retardation almost every day
- loss of energy almost every day
- feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt almost every day
- reduced ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, almost every day
- recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal thoughts without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan to commit suicide
What types of depression are there?
People who suffer from general depression still have most of the main signs and symptoms of depression as discussed above. Depression can range from mild to moderate to severe (sometimes called major depression).
Seasonal affective disorder
This happens when someone becomes depressed only in autumn and winter, and it is caused by insufficient daylight.
Also known as “the baby blues”. This is a depression that occurs after the birth of her baby and can appear anytime between two weeks and two years after the birth.
Also known as Bipolar Disorder. Some people have mood swings, with periods of depression that then turn into periods of mania. Mania is a state of high excitement, and people who are manic may plan or believe lofty plans and ideas.
What causes depression?
There is no single cause of depression; it varies from person to person and can happen for a combination of factors. Although depression there has not been enough evidence to believe that it is something inherited in the genes, some of us are more prone to depression than others. Some factors that can cause depression are:
- the way we were made
- our experiences
- family background.
- traumatic life events
- poor coping strategies
- after a loss of some kind (love, job, home etc.)
- life changes
- inability to adapt
- physical illness
- poor diet and lifestyle
- chemical imbalance
What can you do to help yourself?
Remember that depression can feed on itself. In other words, you get depressed and then you get more depressed by being depressed. An important thing to remember is that there are no instant solutions to problems in life. Solving problems takes time, energy and work. Here are some things you can do to try to break the low mood attitude:
- Make an effort to be more aware of how you speak and think about yourself. Listen to yourself in your head.
- Whenever something negative comes up, quickly scrap that thought and think of something kinder, more encouraging things to say to yourself. For example, if you have to do something, if you always say to yourself: ‘You will surely fail. You always make a mess of everything you do’ try to ‘delete’ that thought and replace it with something like: ‘You will do the best you can.
- Look for things to do that occupy your mind.
- Although you may not like it, it is very therapeutic to participate in physical activities, for 20 minutes a day. This can stimulate chemicals in the brain called endorphins, which can help you feel better.
- Try to do things that improve the way you feel about yourself. Allow yourself treats. Pay attention to your personal appearance. Set yourself daily or weekly goals that you can achieve. Look after yourself by eating healthy.
- Try some alternative therapies like acupuncture, massage, homeopathy and herbal medicine. St John’s Wort is one of the herbal remedies that have become very popular and can help lift your mood. But if you are already taking other medicines, it may not be safe to combine them. Consult your pharmacist or family doctor for more information.
- It can be a great relief to meet and share experiences with other people who are going through the same thing as you are. It can break down isolation and can show you how other people cope and that’s how SpeakOut and support groups can help.
- Remember to try and appreciate and accept yourself. If you have spent most of your life believing that you are unacceptable and of little value, it is difficult to change yourself for the better because all your ideas and ways of behaving are based on those assumption
- Ask questions about the assumptions on which you base your ideas. Is it really true that everyone in the whole world hates you, or that everything you’ve ever done has gone wrong? Is it really true that you have nothing worthwhile in your life?
- Try to remember how you come to think and feel this way.
- Writing these things down puts what you’re thinking and feeling outside of yourself, and you can see it more clearly. Books can be helpful. Try to read, not just self-help books, but well-written novels, poetry and biography.
- Talk about these things with other people and find out how they see things. Talk to friends, call a local drop-in center, join a self-help group. Talking to a therapist or counselor can be very helpful.
What can you do if you think you need more help?
If you find that your depression is affecting your daily functioning and has been present for a long time, it may be worth seeking the advice of your local doctor. Also, if you’ve been through a long period of persistent suicidal thoughts, it might be a good idea to seek some reassuring help from your local doctor if you haven’t already. 4 out of 10 appointments at GP surgeries are on the concerns of a person’s mental and emotional well-being, so it is not necessary to feel like you are the only one. Here are some of the things the doctor can offer:
What if the depression gets worse?
If you are severely depressed, you may need more intensive help. Your doctor may refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist or mental health nurse. The types of services that may be offered to you include:
- Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs) – These are perhaps the most easily accessible services for people with mental health problems. They can provide support to people living in their own homes. The CMHTs include a psychiatrist, community psychiatric nurses (CPNs), social workers and support staff etc.
- Crisis resolution services – These are teams of doctors and nurses who provide support in crisis situations, and will help you to stay at home when you are in crisis, instead of going into the hospital.
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – This is a controversial treatment, which is only offered to people who are severely depressed and have not responded to other treatment. It involves passing an electrical current through the brain while you are under general anesthesia. I have witnessed this several times and in my opinion it sounds worse than it really is.
- Hospital admission – If you are severely depressed and a significant risk to yourself or others, you may need the shelter and safety of a hospital. It also provides an opportunity for health professionals to monitor the effects of different treatments. Hospital can provide a safe, supportive environment when you are in a state of emergency. In general, however, doctors want to avoid putting people in the hospital, but some patients are required to be detained if they are a dangerous risk to others or themselves.
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