What is depression?
Everyone has spells of feeling down, but depression is more than just spending a few days feeling sad or unhappy. Depression can make you feel persistently sad and down for weeks or months at a time.
While some people believe that depression is trivial or not a genuine health problem, it’s actually a real condition that affects around one in 10 people over the course of their lives. It impacts people of all genders and ages – including children.
Do I have depression?
Depression has a range of different symptoms, and it can affect everybody differently. The symptoms include feeling very tearful, feeling hopelessness and sadness, and losing interest in things you enjoyed before.
Physical symptoms happen with depression too – these can include feeling tired all the time, getting poor sleep, losing your appetite, and feeling aches and pains.
If the symptoms are mild, you might simply experience a persistent low mood. It’s common to feel stressed, sad or anxious during difficult times in your life, and a low mood can get better after a short time, rather than being a symptom of depression. Severe symptoms of depression can make people feel suicidal – as if life is no longer worth living.
Seeing a doctor about depression
Big changes in your life, like bereavement, losing a job, or even having a baby, can cause symptoms of depression. You’re also more likely to experience depression if you have a family history of depression. However, it’s also possible to become depressed without there being an obvious reason.
Symptoms and causes of depression
Symptoms of depression can be very different from person to person. However, as a general rule, if you are depressed you feel hopeless, sad and lacking interest in things that used to make you feel happy.
Depression symptoms are bad enough to interfere with work, social life and family life, and can persist for weeks or months.
Depression is described in one of three ways, depending on how serious it is:
- mild depression – it has some impact on daily life
- moderate depression – it has a significant impact on your daily life
- severe depression – this makes it nearly impossible to get through your life day to day
Psychological depression symptoms include:
- continuous sadness or low mood
- losing interest in things
- losing motivation
- not getting any enjoyment in life
- feeling tearful
- feeling guilty
- feeling anxious
- feeling irritable
- finding it hard to make decisions
- feeling intolerant of other people
- feeling helpless
- feeling hopeless
- low self-esteem
- thinking about suicide
- thinking about harming yourself
Physical symptoms include:
- speaking or moving slower than usual
- aches and pains that can’t be explained
- losing, or sometimes gaining, appetite or weight
- disturbed sleep loss of energy
- changes in your menstrual cycle (the time of the month when you get your period)
Social symptoms are common too. These include:
- avoiding talking to or spending time with your friends
- taking part in fewer social activities
- neglecting interests and hobbies
- doing poorly at work
- difficulties with your family or home life
It’s not always possible to tell that you’re having symptoms of depression right away – it can start and progress gradually. A lot of people don’t realise they’re ill and try to carry on and cope with their symptoms. Sometimes it takes a friend or family member to notice that there’s a problem.
Causes of depression
Depression doesn’t have one single cause – it can have a range of triggers, and there are many different reasons a person can develop the condition. Some people are affected after a stressful life event, like a bereavement or divorce. Other people experience depression related to illness, job loss, or money worries.
Different reasons can combine and trigger depression. If you’re feeling low after a job loss or health issues, and then experience something traumatic, like a bereavement, you can develop depression.
There’s no physical test for depression. Visit a certified psychiatrist, and find a course of treatment (counseling or anti-depressants) if:
- you have symptoms of depression that aren’t getting any better
- you have thoughts of self-harm
- your work, relationships with friends and family, or interests are affected by your mood.
Information & Text: The NHS Website, UK