Depression

This page is information on depression

If you are depressed you may feel that nothing can help. You may also recognise that things are getting worse and you want to act before you “can’t”. This is untrue, that said you also won’t snap out of it as you may have been told. Deciding to do something is the most important step you can take and a hard one. Most people recover from bouts of depression, and some even look back on it as a useful experience which forced them to take stock of their lives and make changes in their lifestyle.

What is depression?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Postnatal depression
Bipolar disorder (manic depression)
What are the symptoms of depression?
Anxiety
What causes depression?

What is depression?
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In its mildest form, depression can mean just being low in that it doesn’t stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its worst, depression can be life-threatening in that it means giving up the will to live.

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There are also various specific forms of depression:

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Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

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If you usually become depressed only during the autumn and winter, it could be due to not getting enough daylight. You may benefit from spending time sitting in front of a special light box

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Postnatal depression

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Many mothers have ‘the baby blues’ soon after the birth of their baby but it usually passes after a few days. Postnatal depression is a more serious problem and can appear any time between two weeks and two years after the birth

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Bipolar disorder (manic depression)

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Some people have mood swings, when periods of depression alternate with periods of mania. When manic, they are in a state of high excitement, and may plan and may try to execute grandiose schemes and ideas.

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At least one person in every six becomes depressed in the course of their lives. One in 20 is clinically depressed. Figures suggest that it is women more than men who become depressed, but men may find it harder to admit to or talk about their experience and to ask for support. All age groups can be affected and it’s important to take symptoms seriously and not to dismiss them as an inevitable part of growing up or growing old. By recognising and treating the symptoms and getting help, it’s possible to overcome depression, and prevent it coming back.

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 What are the symptoms of depression?

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Depression shows itself in many different ways. People don’t always realise what’s going on because their problems seem to be physical, not mental. They tell themselves they’re simply under the weather or feeling tired. But if you tick off five or more of the following symptoms, it’s more likely you’re depressed:

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  • being restless and agitated
  • waking up early, having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more
  • feeling tired and lacking energy; doing less and less
  • using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
  • not eating properly and losing or putting on weight
  • crying a lot
  • difficulty remembering things
  • physical aches and pains with no physical cause
  • feeling low-spirited for much of the time, every day
  • being unusually irritable or impatient
  • getting no pleasure out of life or what you usually enjoy
  • losing interest in your sex life
  • finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions
  • blaming yourself and feeling unnecessarily guilty about things
  • lacking self-confidence and self-esteem
  • being preoccupied with negative thoughts
  • feeling numb, empty and despairing
  • feeling helpless
  • distancing yourself from others; not asking for support
  • taking a bleak, pessimistic view of the future
  • experiencing a sense of unreality
  • self-harming (by cutting yourself, for example)
  • thinking about suicide.

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Anxiety

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People who are depressed are often very anxious. It’s not clear whether the anxiety leads into the depression or whether the depression causes the anxiety. A person feeling anxious may have a mind full of busy, repetitive thoughts, which make it hard to concentrate, relax, or sleep. They may have physical symptoms such as headaches, aching muscles, sweating and dizziness. It may cause physical exhaustion and general ill health.

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What causes depression?

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There’s no one cause of depression; it varies very much from person to person and can occur through a combination of factors. Although depression doesn’t seem to be inherited through genes (with the possible exception of manic depression), some of us are more prone to depression than others. This could be because of the way we’re made or because of our experiences or family background.

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Past experiences can have a profound effect on how we feel about ourselves in the here and now and if those feelings are very negative they can be the start of a downward spiral. In many cases, the first time someone becomes depressed it’s triggered by an unwelcome or traumatic event, such as being sacked, divorced, physically attacked or raped.

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Depression is seen by some experts as a form of unfinished mourning. Often events or experiences that trigger depression can also be seen as a loss of some kind. It could be following the actual death of someone close, a major life change (such as moving house or changing jobs) or simply moving from one phase of life into another, as we reach retirement or our children leave home. It’s not just the negative experience that causes the depression, but how we deal with it. If the feelings provoked are not expressed or explored at the time, they fester and contribute towards depression. It’s important to acknowledge and grieve over what we have lost in order to be able to move on successfully

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It’s clear that people who are depressed show changes to the chemical messengers (called neurotransmitters) in the brain. It’s less clear whether this is a cause or a result of the depression.

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