What is depression?

Depression affects one in five of us at some point in our lives. The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that by 2020 it will be 2nd only to heart disease as the biggest health concern.

What is Depression and How Does it Differ from Stress or Sadness?

Life is not smooth. All of us can feel fed up, unmotivated, stressed and lethargic from time to time. But is it depression? Temporary feelings of sadness, or feeling a bit down from time to time is probably not depression. This is a normal response to the ups and downs of life.

Symptoms of stress can also mimic depression. The difference is that in depression the external trigger may be harder to identify. Whereas in Stress the feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed relate to external pressures that are perceived to be beyond your ability to cope. Depression may have a more gradual indefinable onset or follow on from an experience of some form of loss, - either in the near or distant past.

Clinical depression is a term used to describe when depression has become a medical condition, and includes feelings of sadness and hopelessness but includes some other features as well:

A prolonged period of sadness that interferes with your ability to function.
Life seems meaningless and you no longer enjoy things you used to get enjoyment from
You are drowning in despair with no relief: no laughter, no smiles … no sense of a future
Feeling lethargic - feeling like you have no energy
Not bothering with your personal appearance to the same degree
Withdrawing from people
You have trouble sleeping, in particular waking very early, or you sleep most of the day
You have a drastic weight loss or gain
You are unable to function in everyday life, including difficulty concentrating, making decision, thinking clearly.
You have persistent thoughts of ending your life.

When to seek professional help

If you find yourself in this situation, it is essential to seek professional help to get fully assessed. Many people do not think of going to a doctor when they are depressed, but it is an important step to eliminate physical conditions such as a thyroid problem.

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