Depression is a medical condition affecting general outlook and mood. Sometimes, depression is called the “blues.” It is seen as feeling sad and down or losing interest in activities. Even as most people feel this way for a few weeks at a time, clinical depression is more than just feeling blue.
Depression is a serious mental health disorder that requires medical attention. Talk to your doctor if you think you are suffering from depression. People at any age and at any life situation can be depressed.
Depression that isn’t treated can have lasting impacts on your life, from issues around employment, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, or strains on your relationships.
Many people have a happy and healthy life with depression treatment, while others however, must face depression on a lifelong basis, and must be treated on a lifelong basis.
Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression are variable, depending on the severity. There are some standard symptoms you can watch out for. Depression can not only have an impact on how you act but affects your feelings and thoughts.
Typical symptoms include the following:
One of these two must be present on most days over the same two-week period…
• Sad or depressed mood
• Loss of interest in fun or pleasurable activities
And, at least 5 of these will typically also be present…
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Having difficulty focusing or concentrating
• Being tired
• Being sad or lonely
• Feeling guilty
• Poor school or work performance
• Difficulty making decisions
• Trouble thinking clearly
• Being worried all the time
• Being restless
• Being isolated
• Being anxious
• Feeling worthless or hopeless
• Craving foods that aren’t healthy for you
• Having little energy
• Alcohol or illicit drug use
• Muscle pain or headaches
• Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
Some people also show evidence of psychotic episodes, mania, changes in motor abilities, or mood changes. Having these may mean you don’t have depression but instead have other types of depression, such as bipolar disorder or catatonic depression.
Causes of Depression
There isn’t just one cause of depression. Some people are more susceptible to depression than others are. It is vital that you talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
• Some people believe in genetic—depression; that it can be inherited. If you have a family member with depression, you are more likely to have depression as well. however, this is one of those nurture or nature debates- was it genetics or the environment we grew up in. The exact genetic mechanism behind how this might work isn’t yet known.
• Biochemical—some people have identifiable changes in their brains when they are depressed. Even though this potential cause isn’t known, it does indicate that depression begins with changes in brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters within the brain, especially norepinephrine, serotonin, or dopamine, affect pleasure and feelings of happiness. These may be out of balance in those with depression. Why these neurotransmitters are out of balance and what role they play in depression isn’t clear. Antidepressants act to balance these neurotransmitters, especially serotonin. Many of the new drugs on the market are of the SSRI (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors) category- regulating levels of serotonin.
• Hormonal—changes in the production of hormones or the function of hormones could also lead to the onset of depression. Any changes in the hormones, such as with thyroid problems, childbirth, and menopause, could lead to depression. With postpartum depression, for example, the woman has a change in hormones that causes her to develop symptoms of depression. This can be extremely serious.
• Seasonal—as the daytime hours get shorter in the winter, many people develop feelings of tiredness, lethargy, and a lack of interest in everyday tasks. This is called seasonal affective disorder and is a type of depression found mainly in people who live in northern climates. Your doctor may prescribe a light box or an antidepressant when you have these feelings in the wintertime.
• Situational—any time you experience a struggle in life, a big change in your life, or a trauma, you can trigger a case of depression. Things like having a serious life change, having financial difficulties, being fired from your job, or losing a loved one can have a big impact on your emotional and mental state.
• PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and is a form of depression that happens after a serious situation in your life. PTSD can be seen in childhood trauma, soldiers after a war, being diagnosed with a life-threatening depression, being in a serious car or other type of accident, being assaulted or abused, being raped, or seeing something scary.
Other medical conditions; Cancer and treatment for cancer, drug abuse or addictions, eating disorders, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease or those who have had a heart attack, surgery or living with diabetes.
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.