Shedding some light on depression
Have you reduced or lost interest in any of the following activities recently?
• Socialising with friends and family
• Hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed
• Self-care such as physical appearance, exercise, eating properly
If the answer is yes perhaps you are seeing signs of depression.
There are a variety of names and phrases that have been used to describe depression over the years. You may be familiar with ‘black cloud’, ‘black dog’, ‘dark tunnel’, ‘down in the dumps’ and ‘the blues’ but what do they really mean? We all feel a little low at times but what is the difference between feeling low and depression?
The symptoms of depression
Depression is something more than just feeling low. The symptoms of depression can be split into four categories - mood, physical, cognitive and behaviour.
- Mood – feeling low, sad, miserable, irritable, helpless.
- Physical – changes in sleep pattern, appetite changes, weight loss or gain, tiredness, lethargy.
- Cognitive (thinking) – self-criticism, negative thinking, memory and concentration issues, difficulty with decision making.
- Behaviour – social withdrawal, reduction in activities, loss of interest in usual interests or hobbies.
The causes of depression
You may believe that if you have family members that suffer from depression that it is almost inevitable that you too will develop it and that depression must somehow ‘run in the family’. However, how a family interact and behave towards each other is much more likely to contribute towards depression rather than any genetic effect.
Early experiences and life events can contribute towards the onset of depression. On-going stress can also lead to an increased risk.
It is believed that changes in body chemistry can increase the risk of depression.
Depression is most commonly caused by a combination of factors.
Shedding some light on depression
Depression can often be described as a cycle. A low mood leads to negative thinking which results in a reduction of normal activities and social contact. The decrease in activities and social contact exacerbate the low mood and so the cycle continues. Treating depression is all about breaking the cycle and allowing some light into what can feel like a very dark tunnel. The following points outline some of the positive action you can take to help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
- Meet up with a friend or family member whose company you enjoy. It’s ok to admit that you’re not ok. You don’t have to confide everything. You could just start by saying that life feels hard and you appreciate their company and support.
- Increase your physical activity. Exercise can lift the mood and encourage sleep. Even a twenty-minute walk can have benefits.
- Negative thinking and overgeneralising can contribute towards depression. Keeping a journal or writing down negative thoughts can help you identify any patterns in your thought behaviour that may need addressing.
- Recognise your achievements. Going for a walk or socialising with friends may not seem like something to be celebrated. However, carrying out these activities whilst struggling with depression can feel like climbing a mountain and celebrating small successes are important to your overall sense of wellbeing.
- Visiting your GP can help you to feel supported. Medication can sometimes help but on its own can be ineffective. What medication may do is help you feel able to take other actions such as the ones listed above and together, they can help to lift the cloud of depression.
Depression can often come as a result of having to be too strong for too long. There is no shame in admitting that you are suffering with depression. In fact, it can take a lot of strength and courage to tell someone. Talking to a counsellor can assist you in identifying the root cause of your depression as well as help you to feel supported and listened to. A counsellor can help you through what can feel like the darkest of tunnels until you finally begin to see the light.
If you are feeling so low that that you have been having suicidal thoughts then it is vital that you tell someone such as your GP, counsellor or the Samaritans (116 123) as soon as possible.
“You say you're 'depressed' - all I see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn't mean you're defective - it just means you're human.”
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