Clinical depression affects a cross-section of society, regardless of gender, age, socio-economic status, education, employment etc. – there are no barriers.
It is important to realise that the psychological and physiological symptoms of depression are real, and should not be trivialised as something to be ‘snapped out of’. No-one chooses to become depressed.
For those of us that face depression, the support of family and friends is invaluable. However, it may also be necessary to seek expert advice if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, and particularly if you are having suicidal thoughts.
Depression is Real
It cannot be stressed enough that clinical depression has real psychological and physiological impacts. Unfortunately, even in today’s society, there is still a stigma attached to depression. Because depression is not visible, like a broken leg, some people view it as a minor ailment or irritant. They believe sufferers are ‘lazy’ or ‘attention seeking’, and should just ‘suck it up’ and ‘pull themselves together’.
Negative statements such as these are unhelpful and can make symptoms worse. People feel guilty and ashamed because they are made to believe that it is their fault they are unwell. Nothing can be further from the truth – we can no more heal depression with willpower, than we can mend a broken bone with willpower.
Depression differs from feeling unhappy, or even tearful for a few days, as we respond to personal circumstances. It can last for weeks, months and even years, and has been described as a feeling of intense sadness and despair that can become all-consuming, debilitating and sometimes dangerous.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, from experiencing low mood, to having suicidal thoughts. However, for most of us our symptoms lie somewhere between these extremes.
Signs of depression might include:
- Crying for no apparent reason
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Staying in bed
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Loss of libido
- Abusing drugs and alcohol
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling suicidal
Depression is a cycle of negative thought processes and emotions, which have a detrimental impact on health. Treatment of depression will vary from person to person, and depend on the severity of symptoms. While the support of family and friends is invaluable, often expert help is needed to help break the cycle, whether by anti-depressant drugs to tackle the chemical imbalance in the brain, or psychological intervention. Research indicates that the most effective way to treat and prevent the recurrence of depressive episodes, is a combination of therapy and anti-depressants.
Whichever treatment you use, there are ways you can help yourself, including:
- Taking regular exercise
- Eating healthily
- Avoiding alcohol
- Joining a support group
There is no ‘magic bullet’ to treat depression – what works for one person might not work for another. The important thing is to seek support and help as early as possible.