What is Depression?
Depression is a common mental health condition which affects people from all walks of life and interferes with concentration, motivation and many other aspects of everyday functioning. It disrupts sleep, interferes with appetite, in some cases causing weight loss, in others weight gain. In Ireland it is thought that at any point in time one in seven Irish people may be feeling depressed.
Although we all experience the ups and downs of life, an occasional blue day when it is difficult to motivate ourselves, depression is more than that. It is a more pervasive feeling of repetitive negative rumination, bleak outlook and lack of energy and enthusiasm. If you are feeling depressed, you can be down and sad for weeks, or even months at a time.
Depression has a variety of psychological symptoms which may include the following:
- Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Frequently or constantly anxious, worried and tearful
- Difficulty concentrating
- Not getting enough enjoyment out of life
- No motivation or interest in things you previously enjoyed
- Lack of self-esteem
- Excessive and inappropriate guilt
- Difficulty making decisions
Physical symptoms can include:
- Difficulty in sleeping, broken sleep or oversleeping
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Headaches, gastric problems, muscle pain
- Loss of libido or changes to menstrual cycle
- Chronic pain
Living with depression is difficult not only for those suffering but also their family and friends. It can interfere with communication and intimacy. Those feeling depressed can find it difficult to accept comfort from others sometimes believing that they do not deserve it or that affection is insincere. Being depressed can be further exacerbated by withdrawal from others and lead to isolation arising from neglect of hobbies and interests and participation in social activities. Also, it can lead to drug and alcohol use and abuse and can interfere with work and productivity.
In spite of all of this, many of those suffering from depression wait a long time before seeking help. This is often because of the stigma they feel can be associated with being depressed – where it makes those feeling this way seem unattractive,negative or unreliable. Also they can fear they will be rejected, ridiculed or simply told to ‘pull themselves together’. For some they may simply be afraid to confront their problems. It is thought that less than half of those with depression get any professional help although it is very treatable and responds well to many types of therapy.
If you have been experiencing depression symptoms for most of the day, every day, for more than two weeks, or your feeling are affecting a number of aspects of your life such as your relationships, work, hobbies and interests and your overall sense of well-being, you should seek professional help by contacting a Counsellor or a Psychotherapist or your GP. Thoughts of suicide and self-harm are also warning signs that you need to take seriously and seek treatment for. See our Find a Therapist Page here for professional help.
Being treated for depression can seem an uphill struggle and even an impossible task, but the sooner help is sought the sooner symptoms can be alleviated and the recovery process begun. Sometimes this can be overcome without treatment however this is not always the case and seeking help will share the burden at a difficult time.
Common reasons for feeling Depressed:
Loss or Bereavement
The loss of a loved one even if it not premature or from natural causes can be a time of intense pain. Protracted, unexpressed or unprocessed grief can make it very difficult to recover and find our footing in our lives again.
Difficult life events
Separation, Divorce, Family problems, Job loss or Redundancy are all significant issues that can cause us distress and be difficult to recover from. Difficult moments in our lives that can alter our mood in the long-term.
Difficult Childhood experiences
Difficult childhood experiences can affect us in adult life, perhaps emerging having remained dormant for years. Underlying feelings of worthlessness, shame or feeling unlovable can give rise to problems later in life and lack of or poor skills in expressing or managing difficulty can all lead to depression.
Feeling alone, stressed, physically exhausted and/or have no one to talk to can all cause the mental health condition.
‘Frozen anger’ is a term that’s closely related to depression. You may have gone through something that caused you to become angry, but at the time you couldn’t express your feelings properly. This type of anger becomes suppressed; it can then build up and become a primary cause of depression.
Protracted or debilitating illness, often impacting on sociability and lifestyle, can lead to depression.
Heavy drinking on a regular basis can make you more susceptible to developing depression.
Although social media itself doesn’t cause depression, constantly comparing your life to other peoples’ has been heavily linked.
Types of Depression
While it can vary in terms of its severity and how it impacts a sufferer’s life, some types are:
Symptoms have only a limited impact on a daily life. Generally, sufferers of mild depression will experience a persistent low mood and spirit. They may find it difficult to motivate themselves to do things they normally enjoy.
Major (clinical) depression
A more severe form where symptoms will be more prominent and will interfere with an individual’s daily life,impacting on an individual’s eating and sleeping habits, as well as other day-to-day activities. Some sufferers may feel suicidal and that life is no longer worth living. Major clinical depression can lead to hospital admission.
A condition that can develop in women between two weeks and two years after childbirth.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
A form that’s closely related to the length of days. It typically occurs in the autumn and winter months when the days are shorter. Symptoms tend to alleviate when the days get brighter and longer. Read more about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) here.
A form of manic depression characterised by extreme highs and lows. For example when a period of hyperactivity where sufferers are excited and planning overambitious tasks is followed by a period of severe depression.