What is Depression?

If you have depression you will have been constantly sad for weeks or months.  Many of us have periods when we feel down, but depression lasts for more than a few days.

Uninformed people often think depression is trivial and not real health issue.  Ignore them. Depression is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together.”

You should always see a doctor if you think that you may be depressed.

What are the Symptoms?

Because we are all unique, depression affects us all in different ways and can result in a wide variety of symptoms which can be physical as well as emotional and psychological, resulting in some social symptoms.

The psychological symptoms of depression include:

  • continuous low mood or sadness
  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • having low self-esteem
  • feeling tearful
  • feeling guilt-ridden
  • feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • having no motivation or interest in things
  • finding it difficult to make decisions
  • not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • feeling anxious or worried
  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

The physical symptoms of depression include:

  • moving or speaking more slowly than usual
  • changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
  • constipation
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • lack of energy
  • low sex drive (loss of libido)
  • changes to your menstrual cycle
  • disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning

The social symptoms of depression include:

  • not doing well at work
  • avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
  • neglecting your hobbies and interests
  • having difficulties in your home and family life

Symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while severe depression can make you feel suicidal, that life is no longer worth living. Most people experience feelings of stress, unhappiness or anxiety during difficult times. A low mood may improve after a short period of time, rather than being a sign of depression.

What are the Causes?

Triggers for depression can be any stressful or upsetting life events such as: bereavement, divorce, illness and redundancy. In fact, any upheavals which have a profound effect on you can result in depression.

Often there is a cumulative effect as several issues build and the combined effect can be depression.  For example, you may feel low after being ill and then experience a traumatic event, such as a bereavement, which brings on depression.

People often describe a “downward spiral” of events that leads to depression e.g. your relationship breaks down, you start to feel low, you stop seeing friends and family and you may start drinking more. The combination of effects can make you feel worse and bring on depression.

You may have a higher risk of depression if you have a longstanding or life-threatening illness.  Head injuries are also an under-recognised causes of depression, mood swings and emotional problems.

Research also suggests that older people are more likely to get depression, and that it’s more common in people who live in difficult social and economic circumstances. If someone in your family has had depression in the past, such as a parent or sister or brother, it’s also more likely that you can develop it.

Clinical vs Non-Clinical Depression

Non-clinical depression is a normal reaction to difficult or painful life events and stress, whether physical, mental or and emotional. Some medical conditions and medications can also cause non–clinical depression. Clinical depression is a problem with the brain itself, a disease with debilitating mental, emotional and physical symptoms.

Whilst brain function is normal in non-clinical depression there can still be severe symptoms. However, the cause is not a neurobiological brain disorder.

I need to reiterate this, you should always see a doctor if you think that you may be depressed.

Dealing With Depression.

If you have been prescribed medication you should never come off it without talking to your doctor, even when you feel better. The depression can return quickly.

Exercise and a good diet can make a big difference to your recovery from depression. Both will improve your general health as well. A healthy diet can help lift your mood; eating healthily is as important for maintaining your mental health as it is for preventing physical health problems. Research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressants at reducing the symptoms of depression.

Being physically active lifts your mood, reduces stress and anxiety, promotes the release of endorphins (your body’s feel-good chemicals) and improves self-esteem. Exercising may also be a good distraction from negative thoughts, and it can improve social interaction.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend Mindfulness for people who have had several bouts of depression. Mindfulness slows us down, it encourages us to be aware of the present moment.  In this way we notice the world around us and also our own internal feelings and thoughts.  Developing Mindfulness can be a challenge at first, but benefits occur quickly, and practise brings us longer periods of stillness and calm.

How Can I Help?

I can teach you Mindfulness techniques and ways to incorporate these in your daily life.

When depression is caused by suppressed emotions, usually anger, I can help you deal with these emotions in a safe way. Techniques such as Emotional Freedom Technique, aka Tapping, and Hypnotherapy are effective.

I can also help you with your diet ensuring that you include serotonin rich foods which will help your brain produce ‘happy’ chemicals’..

Please note I only treat clients with non-clinical depression.