At some point in their life, everyone experiences some sort of unhappiness, which is often triggered by a traumatic event, most people also feel "down" from time to time. Left unattended this unhappiness can develop into a bout of depression - a real often unrecognised illness. Many people sit alone with their depression, and almost 50 per cent of people do not know they have depression or that it can be treated effectively by their doctor.
Depression affects up to 40% of people at some point in their lives, it's twice as common in women than men.. It often appears first during a persons teens or twenties. Some people then experience recurrent episodes – or bouts – throughout their lives.
Learning to manage stress is an important factor in the prevention of depression. Stress is a highly individual experience; we all have different things in our lives that cause frustration or unhappiness. We all need to be aware of how we are feeling and of how to develop positive ways of coping - making more time to relax, exercise, learning to talk more openly with people you are close to.
- The most common symptom of depression is low mood, also pessimism. Some people are irritable and tend to lose their temper more easily than usual.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities. They tend to feel different and separate from the rest of the world.
- Reduced energy, tiredness, poor concentration and motivation. Also sleep disorder - either waking up unrefreshed from a long sleep or waking up very early in the morning (insomnia or hypersomnia). Loss of sex-drive (libido) and eating disorders - either loss of appetite or eating too much – are also common.
- Symptoms of anxiety - guilt, fearfulness, palpitations and even panic attacks. Very often these feelings subside when the depression is treated.
- Judging themselves excessively harshly or critically. They may feel that life is not worth living. People who are depressed are more likely than others to attempt suicide.
- Alcohol or illegal drugs to blot out their difficult feelings, unfortunately, making things worse. Alcohol, for example, lowers the mood further and, in excess, is harmful to physical health.
- Sense of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness.
What causes depression?
Lots of reasons might be a cause of depression. Financial worries, a stressful job, redundancy or fear of unemployment, relationship, health problems. New mothers are susceptible to postnatal depression. Some people tend to always look on the darker side of things – it’s part of their personality. These people are more likely to develop full-blown depression at some point in their lives.
Some forms of the illness seem to run from early years. Unhappy childhood experiences are important in the development of depression in adult life. For example, a child who loses his/her mother before the age of 14 and lacks adequate care from another person is more likely to develop depression. Other difficult childhood events such as sexual abuse are linked to depression many years later.
Treatment of depression
Depression interferes with the way people want to live their everyday lives. They may feel unable to go to work or do any of the things they used to enjoy. Despite this, many people do not seek help for their problems. This may be because they feel embarrassed about their feelings, considering them a sign of weakness, or because they blame themselves for their misfortune.
Fortunately, a number of treatments are available for depression and talking to a qualified professional about feelings is the first step.
The two main approaches to treating depression:
- psychological therapies (counselling) - for mild forms of depression (regular physical exercise may also help for mild to moderate depression),
- medical treatment (antidepressants) - for more severe depression, also as a combination of psychological treatment and antidepressant drugs.
The two main types of antidepressants are known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) and tricyclics (the name refers to the molecular structure of the drug). They are both known to be effective but SSRIs are now being more widely used because their side-effects tend to be slightly less troublesome.
Most antidepressants take at least two weeks to start working and their effects begin quite gradually. They are usually required for about six months to treat a single episode of depression, even if the symptoms clear up sooner.
St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) as tablets (can be bought from health food stores and pharmacies) is a popular complementary medicine for depression. Some research studies have shown some promising results in treating mild to moderate depression. But always ask for advice from your doctor or pharmacist before taking these antidepressants as there can be harmful interactions.
Psychological treatment is often arranged for depressed people. Counselling usually takes the form of a one-to-one session where you have an opportunity to express your feelings and problems, with the counsellor listening and asking questions. A typical course of counselling is around six sessions. Generally in counselling, you won’t be told what to do about these feelings.
The cognitive behavioural therapy and psychotherapy may be used in some cases of depression.
If depression is severe, or intense thoughts of suicide are experienced, GPs often refer sufferers to a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are qualified doctors who have specialist training in treating mental health problems. A psychiatrist can suggest a wider range of therapy, both medical and psychological. Sometimes, people need to be admitted to hospital for severe depression (clinical depression). Depressed people usually aren't a danger to others,but they (or their family) may feel they are unsafe to be looked after at home, due to suicidal thoughts.
Depression - Net, Info on depression, treatments and medicines
Why do people become depressed? How is depression treated?