Health Conditions: Depression

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.

We all go through spells of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people still think that depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong. Depression is a real illness with real symptoms, and it’s not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”.

The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people can make a full recovery.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression?

Unhappiness or Sadness is only a small part of depression. Depression has many other symptoms, including physical ones. If you have been experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms for at least 2 weeks, you may be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Inability to control negative thoughts, no matter how much you try
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness.
  • Unexplained aches and pains and an increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Reckless or Escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Low self esteem which makes people dwell on losses or failures and feel excessive guilt and helplessness. Thoughts like “I am a loser” or “the world is a terrible place” or “I don’t want to be alive” would take over.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Consuming more alcohol than normal or engaging in other reckless behavior
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability

What are the possible causes and risk factors for depression?

  • Loneliness
  • Lack of family or social support
  • Recent stressful life experiences
  • Family history of depression
  • Marital or Relationship problems
  • Financial strain
  • Early childhood trauma or abuse
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Unemployment or underemployment
  • Health problems or chronic pain
  • Life-changing events, such as bereavement, even having a baby
  • You can also become depressed for no obvious reason.

Depression is quite common and affects about one in 10 of us at some point. It affects men and women, young and old.

When to see a doctor
It’s important to seek help from your doctor if you think you may be depressed. Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression, but it’s best not to delay. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can be on the way to recovery.

Treatment

Treatment for depression involves either medication or talking treatments, or usually a combination of the two. The kind of treatment that your doctor recommends will be based on the type of depression you have.

Many people with depression benefit by making lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, cutting down on alcohol, stopping smoking and eating more healthily.

Self-help measures such as reading a self-help book or joining a support group are also worthwhile.

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