Depression is ruining my life

Depression is ruining my life

What causes depression and how can we recognise it?

The word depression is used to describe a range of moods – from low spirits to a severe problem that interferes with everyday life. If you are experiencing severe or “clinical” depression you are not just sad or upset. The experience of depression is an overwhelming feeling which can make you feel quite unable to cope, and hopeless about the future. If you are depressed your appetite may change and you may have difficulty sleeping or getting up. You may feel overwhelmed by guilt, and may even find yourself thinking about death or suicide. There is often an overlap between anxiety and depression, in that if you are depressed you may also become anxious or agitated.
Sometimes it is difficult to decide whether you are responding normally to difficult times, or have become clinically depressed. A rough guide in this situation is that if your low mood or loss of interest significantly interferes with your life (home, work, family, social activities), lasts for two weeks or more, and brings you to the point of thinking about suicide then you may be experiencing clinical depression and you should seek some kind of help.

Anyone can become depressed. Approximately one person in six experiences depression of some kind in the course of their lifetime and one in 20 experiences clinical depression. At any one time, about one in 10 people will have some symptoms of depression. Of course, people who are depressed do not always seek help and even if they do, they may not always be diagnosed as depressed, so these figures are only estimates.
People from all backgrounds, ages and cultures can experience depression, although people vary in how they express their difficulties. For example, some people use words such as "sad" or "low" to describe feeling depressed, whereas other people describe their feelings in terms of their body, such as "a pain in my heart". In many Western countries women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression. Men are more likely than women to recognise and describe the physical symptoms of depression, such as feeling tired or losing weight. They may also acknowledge feeling irritable or angry, rather than saying they feel low. Men are also more likely than women to use alcohol to cope with feeling depressed.
Because of this, depression in men is often not picked up by themselves or by others – including doctors. If depression is not detected, it can’t be treated and then it has the potential to become severe and disabling.

About two per cent of children under 12 experience depression. This rises to about five per cent for teenagers. A particular worry is the rise in the numbers of young men who attempt suicide, which may be associated with depression, hopelessness, or difficulties in their lives.
Depression in both women and men is often linked to life changes or to loneliness. About 10 per cent of women experience post-natal depression in the weeks following childbirth. Social factors which can make people more at risk of becoming depressed include loss of employment, bereavement and problems with relationships.
Older adults over 65 seem to have a slightly greater risk of depression. This risk gets much higher in people over 85 years old. It can be particularly difficult to recognise depression in older people because they are less likely to talk about feeling sad or low, and more likely to talk about physical problems such as loss of energy or difficulty sleeping. This means that GPs, family and friends may not understand how they are feeling. In older people it appears that depression is less likely to "lift" without help, particularly if they are severely depressed. This may explain why older depressed people have a high suicide rate, particularly men over the age of 75 years old. Depression can also be confused with the effects of other health problems, which are more common in later life. People who are depressed often report feeling confused and having difficulty in thinking and remembering things. In older people it is important to find out whether these problems are due to depression or to the development of dementia – for example in Alzheimer’s disease or following a stroke.

What causes depression?
Although no definitive and final answer exists to the question of what causes depression, much is known. Depression may be caused by major negative Life events – for example, the death of a loved one, a divorce, a severe financial setback, or even a move to a different neighbourhood or part of the country. Other factors that may cause depression include trouble having and keeping social relationships and trouble keeping your everyday life in line with your values in life.
Depression also may be related to faulty Thinking patterns. These might include magnifying how badly things are going for you, drawing negative conclusions from life events even when it doesn’t make good sense to do so, and generally having a negative view of oneself, the world, and the future.
There are several types of Biochemical imbalances that may occur in depression. Depression may develop when a biological predisposition to depression is activated by an event. This predisposition is activated when one experiences a major life event (or a sequence of more minor negative life events) and/or develops a negative cognitive pattern of evaluating oneself and one’s life events. It is believed that the biological characteristics of depression (sleep disturbance, appetite loss, loss of sexual interest, and tiredness) are related to this biochemical imbalance.

During the past few years, very effective Treatments have been developed for depression. The majority of people experiencing depression can expect to experience considerable relief from depression within 3 or 4 weeks of effective treatment, and long-lasting relief within 3 to 6 months of treatment. Behaviour therapy and Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) are among the treatments that have been most extensively evaluated and that have been shown through research to be effective. Behavioural treatments help a person to engage in healthy life activities, particularly activities that are consistent with one’s life values. Behaviour therapy also helps people to develop skills and abilities to cope with major life events and to learn social relationship skills when these are missing. Cognitive behaviour therapy includes the development of behavioural skills, but focuses more on correcting the faulty thinking patterns of depression. Most people experiencing depression will profit from participating in cognitive.

How do you know if someone is depressed and not just sad? A person may be depressed, if for more than two weeks they have...
1. Felt sad, down or miserable most of the time, OR
2. Lost interest or pleasure in most of their usual activities AND experienced symptoms in at least three of the following four categories:

1. Behaviour
• General slowing down or restlessness
• Neglecting responsibilities and not looking after themselves
• Withdrawing from family and friends
• Becoming confused, worried and agitated
• Inability to find pleasure in any activity
• Finding it difficult to get motivated in the morning
• Behaving differently from usual
• Denying depressive feelings – this can be used as a defence mechanism

2. Thoughts
• Indecisiveness
• Loss of self-esteem
• Persistent suicidal thoughts
• Talking negatively e.g. "I’m a failure.", "It’s my fault.", "Life isn’t worth living."
• Worrying about finances
• Perceived change of status within the family

3. Feelings
• Moodiness or irritability – this can come across as anger or aggression
• Sadness, hopelessness or emptiness
• Feeling overwhelmed, worthless or guilty

4. Physical Symptoms
• Sleeping more or less than usual
• Feeling tired all the time
• Unexplained headaches, backache or similar complaints
• Digestive upsets, nausea, changes in bowel habits
• Agitation, hand-wringing, pacing
• Loss or change of appetite
• Significant weight loss or gain

Depression can come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people continue to try to cope with their symptoms without realising they are ill. It can take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong. Doctors describe depression by how serious it is:
Mild depression has some impact on your daily life
Moderate depression has a significant impact on your daily life
Severe depression makes it almost impossible to get through daily life – a few people with severe depression may have psychotic symptoms. Everyone can experience some or all of these symptoms from time to time, but when the symptoms are severe and lasting for weeks, months or even longer, it’s time to get professional help.

There are different kinds of depression. For example it can be hard to distinguish between grief and depression. They share many of the same characteristics, but there are important differences between them. Grief is an entirely natural response to a loss, while depression is an illness.
People who are grieving find their feelings of loss and sadness come and go, but they are still able to enjoy things and look forward to the future. In contrast, people who are depressed have a constant feeling of sadness. They don’t enjoy anything and find it hard to be positive about the future.

Another form of depression is Bipolar disorder (Manic depression). About one per cent of the population will experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives (Recently, the famous actor and comedian Stephen Fry revealed he suffer from Bipolar disorde). A diagnosis of bipolar disorder means that you have both “high” and “low” mood swings, along with changes in thoughts, emotions and physical health. The mood swings are normally more extreme than everyday ups and downs. This problem is sometimes also referred to as manic depression. Most people with bipolar disorder have their first episode of depression in their late teens or early twenties, and without treatment it is very likely to recur.
About 10 to 15 per cent of women experience Post-natal Depression in the first year after having a baby. They may be unusually tearful, anxious or irritable, and may also find it difficult to play with their babies and respond positively to them. Although most women get the so-called “baby blues” in the first few days after childbirth because of rapid hormone changes, post-natal depression is very different from this and lasts longer. It is probably due to a mixture of biological, psychological and social factors, and women are particularly at risk of post-natal depression if they do not have a supportive partner or family to help them.
In Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) some people describe feeling depressed regularly at certain times of the year. A key feature of this kind of depression is the desire to sleep more and eat carbohydrate foods. Usually this kind of depression starts in the autumn or winter, when daylight is reduced. If you experience this kind of depression you may be helped by specially designed bright light therapy.

If you choose to have psychological help then it is more likely to have a counselling or a therapy, "talking treatment", or "psychological therapy". These are terms that are used more by professionals than on a day-to-day basis.
Counsellors and therapists provide a confidential space where people can talk about anything that is troubling them. They provide a non-judgemental, accepting presence where you are free to express whatever thoughts and feelings you wish to explore.
The client sets the agenda; you can decide what you wish to speak about, and the counsellor or therapist will provide a listening ear. For many people, the sense of being listened to, and being able to speak without having to be concerned about being judged or about the emotional impact of what they are saying, is significant in itself.
While people often seek counselling or therapy for help, counsellors or therapists do not provide advice, and will not tell people what to do. This may contradict people’s expectations or wishes. However, many people find it beneficial to be given the space to explore situations and feelings and to find their own solutions to their difficulties.
Talking things through and exploring them in this way can help people to find ways of managing their circumstances and feelings in a way that is more helpful and supportive to them. The process may help them realise that their current patterns of behaviour or thinking are not serving them well. The relationship with the therapist or counsellor may give them an opportunity to test out or explore different ways of being in a relationship without fear of consequences in their day-to-day lives or relationships.
Talking treatments alone can be effective in treating mental health problems such as depression; for others a combination of talking treatments and medication may be most effective. But medication tends to work by treating the symptoms of a problem, whereas talking treatments (counselling) aim to address the underlying causes.