Depression is a mood disorder and one of the most frequent mental health problems that can cause extreme psychological pain.
Everyone gets sad at times and that is a normal reaction when one get upset or something doesn't go as wished or there is a loss. That is usually short lived. However when there are persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest and may cause you to struggle with normal everyday activities and negatively impact one or more aspects of your life such as relationships, family or social life, work or school we have depression.
Some people still see it as something you can control or as weakness that one should just 'snap out' of it, but that's not always the case. In many people it may require long term treatment like many other illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
But keep in mind that effective treatments exist and either medication or psychological therapy or a combination of both will help.
The causes can be multiple. From genetic, biological changes in brain chemistry and hormonal imbalances to life events. Sometimes they are obvious, other times there seems to be no apparent reason. In the majority of times there is an accumulation of factors overtime, for example loss or bereavement, worry or stress, physical illness or bullying or abuse. When it reaches your resilience limit, depression develops, sometimes associated with other mental health problems frequently anxiety. It is more frequent if there have been previous episodes of low mood or depression or if there is a family history of depression.
A note on bereavement. It is normal to feel sad and even depressed or anxious after you lose a loved one. There is not much one can do to alleviate that suffering. It will usually last six months, sometimes a little longer and time will help. However if it lasts longer and affects how you live your life, it is no longer considered normal and professional help might be needed to overcome the loss. Although one never forgets, it is possible to learn how to cope better and the pain will subside with time.
Other risk factors for the development of depression are: certain personality traits like low self esteem or pessimism, being unemployed, having financial problems and having no family or friends support. Also important contributors are having other mental or physical health problems or difficulties, taking certain medications and having a past history of trauma or abuse. Alcohol or illicit drugs abuse can also contribute to the development of depression and if also not treated will prevent recovery and depression treatments from being effective.
Even though depression may occur only once in a life, frequently people experience multiple episodes during their lifetime. During these, symptoms will be present almost every day, throughout the day and can last for weeks, months or years if left untreated.
Some of the symptoms of depression include:
• feeling sad, empty, flat or tearful
• irritable, frustrated, angry or restless
• having low energy levels and lack of ability to enjoy things as before, like hobbies, sports or sex
• sleep and appetite maybe decrease or increase
• concentration is usually poor and one struggles to remember things or make decisions
• feeling anxious and constant worrying or feeling scared
• predominance of negative thoughts, feelings of guilt or worthlessness
• unexplained medical symptoms like having headaches, back pain or feeling sick
• feeling hopeless and helpless, like there is no way out and having thoughts that life is not worth living
• thinking or making plans of how to end ones lives (and suffering)
• In more severe cases, experiencing strange or bizarre thoughts/experiences like feeling that one is being watched, followed or others want you harm or even that your body is no longer functioning
These are quite frequent and they are no reason to be ashamed. Some people will cope by self harming to relieve them or turn to excess alcohol drinking to cope with the emotions or lack of sleep for example. These only help for a short period and should be a sign that professional help is needed.
The sooner one gets help the easier it is to get better and avoid more severe symptoms developing, with increased suffering, where you can see no way out.
Some of the complications of untreated, long standing depression are social isolation, family and relationship difficulties or problems at work or school; low weight or obesity with all its complications; pain and physical illness; alcohol and substance misuse; deliberate self harm and chronic suicidal feelings, thoughts or attempts.
Even though it might feel like nothing will ever help, there are effective treatments and you should give yourself the chance, be brave and try them. Ask your family or friends to help you if you cannot or don’t want to do it alone and/or see a doctor.
For further information on depression click here.