Sadness, loneliness, and occasional depression are normal parts of life that can be experienced by anyone at some point in their lives. Feeling sad or depressed can occur as a result of a break-up, work stress, financial problems, general struggles of life and is a typical reaction to grief and loss. These times and feelings come and go, and typically there is a source or reason for the depression that we can identify.
It is when a low mood and certain accompanying symptoms become the norm and last for more than a few weeks, that it may be indicative of a more serious depression.
At this point, it is time to seek help from counsellor and/or your GP (doctor). Your GP is a place to start, and he or she can screen you for depression and determine whether medication, talking therapy or a mixture of both could be useful.
If left untreated, symptoms of depression may get worse and can last for several months or even several years causing major suffering, a reduced quality of life and may lead to suicide. Not getting treatment can even be life threatening in some. Thousands of people in the UK who have depressive symptoms commit suicide each year.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 years in the UK and it is considerably higher in men, with around three times as many men dying as a result of suicide compared to women.2 It is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK. Those at highest risk are men aged between 40 and 44 years who have a rate of 24.1 deaths per 100,000 population.2
One reason that men are more likely to complete suicide may be because they are less likely than women to ask for help or talk about depressive or suicidal feelings.3 Recent statistics show that only 27% of people who died by suicide between 2005 and 2015 had been in contact with mental health services in the year before they died. (Stats from Mental Health.org.uk)
Recognising the symptoms of depression is usually the biggest problem when making the diagnosis of depression and treating it.
What are the symptoms of depression?
A diagnosis of depression requires that there be several persistent symptoms along with a low mood that are present for at least two weeks, other important considerations include:
• Not everyone will experience every symptom, some may have a few, while others
will have many
• The signs and symptoms of depression can be severe or mild
• The symptoms can vary based on the stage of depression
Symptoms of depression may include any of the following:
• Suicide attempts or thoughts of suicide
• Sad, “empty”, or anxious feelings
• Ongoing aches and pains, digestive problems, and headaches that don’t ease even with some type of treatment and have no known cause
• Appetite loss or eating too much, including a 5% bodyweight loss or gain over a month’s time
• Anger, irritability, agitation, low tolerance level, short temperedness and everything and everyone getting on your nerves
• Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, even sex
• Restlessness and irritability
• Insomnia, excessive sleeping, or early morning wakening
• Feelings of pessimism and hopelessness
• Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, or guilt
• Tiredness and decreased energy
• Restlessness and restless behaviour such as the inability to sit still
• Problems concentrating, making decisions, or remembering details
What are the warning signs of suicide with depression?
People who are depressed are at a greater risk of being suicidal. Anyone who has suicidal thoughts or ideation should be taken extremely seriously. Help is available from the suicide hot line at 1-800-SUICIDE.
Warning signs of the possibility of suicide in depression include:
• Having a death wish or tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to an early death
• Depression that gets worse
• Always thinking or talking about death
• A sudden and significant switch from being sad to appearing to be happy or very calm
• Visiting or talking to people they once cared about
• Talk of killing oneself
• Saying things like “I want out” or “It would be better if I weren’t here”
• Putting affairs in order, changing a will, or tying up loose ends
• Making comments about being worthless, helpless, or hopeless
Remember that if you or a loved one is showing any of the above signs of suicide with depression either contact a health specialist right away or call a local suicide hotline (UK Samaritans freephone is 116 123). If these aren’t possible, go to the A&E for emergency evaluation and management.
Depression in Adolescents
It is common for adolescents to occasionally feel sad. When the sadness lasts for more than 2 weeks however, it may mean the teenager is suffering from depression.
It is estimated that as many as 1 in every 8 teens and 1 in every 33 kids have depression. If you suspect that your teenager is suffering from depression, you need to take them to an emergency room or to a psychiatrist who specialises in treating adolescents.
How is depression diagnosed?
The diagnosis of depression often starts with a complete history and physical examination by your doctor. Because certain illnesses, medications, or infections can also cause symptoms of depression, your doctor will want to understand when the symptoms began, how long they have lasted, and how bad they are.
They will ask you whether or not you have had depression in the past and what kinds of treatments you’ve had that has worked for you before. Your family history of mental illnesses, including depression, is extremely important, as is any history of alcohol or illicit drug use.
How Depressive Symptoms are Treated
If a physical cause for the depressive symptoms is ruled out, your GP may begin an initial drug treatment and/or may refer you to a counsellor, psychiatrist or a psychologist.
At Citizen Counselling and Coaching a number of our counsellors and coaches can provide support around depression and low mood. This can include identifying the obstacles overcoming depression, creating practical plans and advice through sharing techniques and models that have worked for others.
Our ‘My Depression Coach’ online programme and Coaching were designed for time poor busy people looking to increase their confidence and make a positive change in their lives.
Our Overcoming Depression page can explain more.