The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) describe depression as "the common cold of the mind”. In Britain, 5% of the population are at this moment suffering from depression. Although initially more common in women, episodes of depression may decline as they get older. Men are more prone to depression in later life and can be at greater risk of suicidal ideation.
Depression is more than “being fed up”, or “feeling blue”. It is a recognised illness with psychological, physical and behavioural changes. You may have become aware of changes over the last two weeks, or someone may have remarked on a change in your behaviour or personality. You may feel tired even after sleep, or conversely find it hard to fall asleep at all. Some people find themselves waking at unusually early hours. Your appetite may diminish or increase, and it may become an effort to wash or dress. You may avoid responsibility or decision making. Irritability and anger are common, as is shame or guilt. Motivation may decrease, with little pleasure derived from previously enjoyable activities. It may seem that there is no future or a way out of your present suffering. You may cry more than usual or feel you have "no tears left", and have critical beliefs and thoughts about yourself. You may believe you would be better off dead, with thoughts of hopelessness and inability to see a future.
Tackling your Depression
A consultation with a general practitioner is essential for assessment of your problem. They may recommend further tests to exclude medical reasons for your symptoms, or may refer you to a Consultant Psychiatrist for a specialist opinion. If depression is diagnosed, there are several options to consider. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (www.nice.org.uk) aim to promote good health and the treatment of ill health, underpinned by research. This website will help you to make an informed choice regarding treatment. Similarly, Depression Alliance provide advice and support. Medication can also be helpful, but it can take a few days or weeks to reach a therapeutic level. Your pharmacist will be able to explain how your medication works and any possible side effects.
Planning your week and completing simple tasks will increase your coping skills and confidence, and can also improve your mood. Weave small, enjoyable things into your day to create stimulation and reduce boredom. Record what you do so that you can see how you are progressing.
Change, stress or loss may have led to your present difficulty. You may wish to consider making changes to help, or adopting new skills to manage things differently. This is an area you may discuss in therapy. Your GP consultation may also highlight dietary or lifestyle changes that could help.
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