Many of us feel low from time to time. You might feel low because you’ve have had a tough week at work or an argument with your partner. This feeling might last for a few hours or days but you’re probably able to see that things will improve in the future. If, on the other hand, you’re feeling low for a few weeks or months, and you’re finding it harder to work or socialise with your friends, then it could be a sign that you are experiencing depression.
Symptoms of depression
Depression can come in many different forms. It can be triggered by a single event, such as the loss of a job. It can also be triggered by a build-up of smaller events. Or it may come out of the blue, without any clear cause.
Almost 1.5 million people in the UK experience depression each year (http://digital.nhs.uk/pubs/psychiatricmorbidity07). The symptoms can vary from person to person but most people will experience at least some of the symptoms below:
• Feeling irritable or low for most of the day
• Decreased interest or pleasure in things that they usually enjoy
• Weight or appetite change
• Changes in sleep
• Changes in activity
• Fatigue or loss of energy
• Feeling hopeless about the future
• Feeling guilt/worthlessness
• Concentration difficulties
• Suicidal thoughts
• Persistent aches and pains
When to seek help?
Often people with depression find it difficult to seek help. They may feel hopeless and don’t think that things will improve.
It’s important, though, that if you’re having some of the symptoms listed above and you’re finding day-to-day life more of a struggle, that you seek help. You could do this by speaking with your GP or contacting a therapist.
What kind of help is available?
There are many different types of help available for depression. It’s important to remember that different things may work for different people.
Many people with depression find that medication can help improve how they feel. There are many different types of medication and these can be discussed with your GP. Medication has the advantage of being quick and easy to take. But many people who take anti-depressant medication experience a range of unwanted side-effects (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Antidepressant-drugs/Pages/Side-effects.aspx).
Receiving talking therapy from a trained therapist can also help reduce depressive symptoms. There are many different types of therapy available for depression but the most widely used and effective therapy is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT – Link to CBT article).
CBT aims to improve how you feel by changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. CBT is just as effective as medication for the treatment of depression (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15520357).
CBT can be carried out face-to-face or online, using video-conferencing software, such as Skype (link online therapy article).
Some people find that CBT alone can help improve how they feel. Others find that CBT is more helpful when taking medication at the same time.
Other things that can help:
Many people find that speaking to close friends and family makes them feel better. Opening up means that you’ll likely receive support and understanding from those closest to you.
Many people with depression find that exercise can be helpful. There is some evidence showing that exercise is as effective as medication for reducing depressive symptoms (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17846259). Of course, finding the motivation to exercise whilst feeling depressed can be very difficult, so it might be helpful to start with small amounts of exercise and build this up over time.
Drink and drugs can make the symptoms of depression much worse. Avoiding them altogether is a good idea if you’re feeling depressed.
Creating routine in your day-to-day life may help you to manage tasks more easily. Many people also find that having a bed-time routine can improve their sleep.
If you’d like to find out more about about CBT, please click here (http://cognitivepractice.com/contact/)
Note: This article alone should not be used to diagnose depression. Your GP will be able to discuss your symptoms with you as well as treatment options.
If you are feeling like taking your own life then please visit your local A + E department immediately.