What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder characterised by low mood and a wide range of other possible symptoms, which vary from person to person. Depression can develop very quickly or gradually over a period of time and can be brought on by things that happen in our lives and/or changes in our body.

What Causes Depression?

Depression is much more than just feeling down, it is a serious illness caused by a change in brain chemistry although there are other factors that contribute to the onset of depression including:

  • genetic characteristics

  • changes in hormone levels

  • redundancy

  • separation or divorce

  • being bullied at school, work or online

  • bereavement

In some cases there may seem to be no apparent reason for the onset of depression.

The Symptoms

Depression commonly affects your thoughts, your emotions, your behaviours and your overall physical health. Here are some of the most common symptoms which can, if you have been suffering from five or more of them over a few weeks, point to the possible presence of depression.

Feelings:

  • sadness

  • useless or worthless

  • guilt

  • moodiness

  • angry outbursts

  • loss of interest in friends, family and favourite activities

Thoughts:

  • trouble concentrating

  • trouble making decisions

  • trouble remembering

  • thoughts of harming yourself

  • delusions and/or hallucinations can also occur in cases of severe depression

  • dislike or hate yourself

Behaviours:

  • withdrawing from people

  • substance abuse

  • missing work, school or other commitments

  • attempts to harm yourself

Physical problems:

  • tiredness or lack of energy

  • unexplained aches and pains

  • changes in appetite

  • weight loss

  • weight gain

  • changes in sleep - sleeping too little or too much

There are also different degrees of depression which are mild, moderate and major.

Mild depression has a limited impact on your daily life. For example, you may have difficulty concentrating at work or motivating yourself to do the things you normally enjoy.

Moderate depression has a significant impact on your daily life

Major depression interferes with an individual's daily life and makes it almost impossible to get through the day.

Self Help

There are steps you can take to free yourself from depression, although what works for one may not work for another. Here is a list of things you could try by yourself:

  • take up a physical activity such as swimming or just going for a small walk

  • doing things that you enjoy such as a hobby or going to visit a friend

  • give yourself a treat, go shopping and buy yourself something new

  • set yourself goals, start with something small and build it up

  • sign up to do some voluntary work

  • join a local club or group

It’s not easy to get motivated when you are feeling depressed but it's very important that you find a way to change the way you are feeling.

You can gain a lot from meeting people with similar experiences. You will find out how they coped with their depression and it will allow you to speak to people who understand how you are feeling.

Treatment

If doing things on your own just isn't enough and you feel your depression is getting worse then you should go to your GP for medical treatment. Your GP can offer support and advice about your recovery, they can also provide treatment in the form of anti-depressant drugs and referrals to specialists.

Most people that take anti-depressants go on to make a good recovery, but beware it can take 2 to 4 weeks of taking your anti-depressants before they start to make you feel better so it's very important that you do not stop taking them.

Counselling and Psychotherapy

Counselling and psychotherapy gives people an opportunity to talk through their problems and feelings.

You may talk about the present or something from your past that is much more deep rooted.

Your therapist will have a much better idea of how many sessions you will need this will be agreed by you and your therapist.

Counselling can be done on a one to one basis, just you and the counsellor, or it can be in a group of people that are in the same position as you.

The goal of psychotherapy is to help individuals address the issues that contribute to their depression, including resolving conflicts, improving family and work relationships, recovering from trauma or loss and learning how to deal with recurrent stresses

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy - CBT

CBT cannot remove your problems, but it can help you deal with them in a more positive way. It is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle.

CBT focuses on self reflection and important past traumas and aims to help you crack this cycle by breaking down overwhelming problems into smaller parts and showing you how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel.

NHS Choices - Clinical Depression