What is Depression?
Feelings of unhappiness and despair are a normal part of life for everyone. It’s natural to feel sadness or helplessness from time-to-time in response to the daily challenges of life. However, when these feelings start to become overwhelming, to the extent that they are severely affecting your life over a sustained period of time, you may be suffering from depression. It’s estimated that over 280 million people have depression across the world.
Without proper treatment, the symptoms of depression can get worse and last for many years. If you’re feeling depressed, it’s important to recognise depression symptoms so you can take the appropriate action. If you feel like your symptoms are getting too much, know that treatment for depression is available and an option for you.
- Intense feelings of sadness – your moods may be so low that they affect your ability to function and even take care of yourself
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness – feeling as though you are unable to see a way out of your depression
- Tearfulness – finding that you are crying more than usual and become emotional for no apparent reason
- Flat affect (reduced emotional reactivity)
- Lack of interest in physical appearance or personal hygiene
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
If you’ve been having suicidal thoughts, or know someone who has, then you need to look for help straight away. Contact a suicide helpline, such as Samaritans, ask for an urgent GP appointment, or go straight to the A&E department at your nearest hospital.
- Appetite changes – either increased or reduced appetite which may also result in weight fluctuations
- Low energy/excessive fatigue
- Psychomotor agitation (being restless or unable to sit still)
- Psychomotor retardation (slowing of movements)
- Sleep disturbances such as insomnia or struggling to get out of bed
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Unexplained digestive problems
- Sexual dysfunction, including reduced libido and erectile difficulties
Symptoms can vary widely for each individual, as can the severity of those symptoms. For those suffering with depression, it’s likely that your symptoms will be affecting your day-to-day activities, work, social, and/or family life.
Who can Experience Depression Symptoms?
Depression can happen to anyone and depression causes can vary from person to person. However, your age, gender and other circumstances in your life can have an impact on the likelihood of you suffering from a type of depression, whether that be dysthymia, bipolar depression or clinical depression. It might also impact the types of symptoms you experience.
Statistically speaking, depression in women is more common than in men. In one large scale survey published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, women and girls were found to be twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.
The reasons for this are widespread, but common causes include:
- Hormonal differences, especially during a woman’s typical reproductive years when they may suffer from postnatal depression
- Stress, a hormone which women tend to produce more of than men
- Social pressures such as body image issues
- Juggling the demands of modern society, such as motherhood and a career
Women will likely experience many of the most common symptoms for depression. However, some will arise more often in women than men. These include:
- An increase in the amount of sleep they typically get a night
- Increase in appetite
- Stronger feelings of guilt and worthlessness
Whilst depression in men is less prevalent than depression in women, it should also be noted that men are less likely to speak openly about their feelings, bottling up their emotions and increasing the likelihood of further problems down the line. In fact, despite 77% of men admitting they have suffered from depression, anxiety or stress in their lives, 40% said they haven’t shared their emotions with anyone.
Some things in a man’s life may make them more likely to become depressed, such as:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loneliness or isolation
- Alcohol or substance abuse
Again, men will typically experience many of the most common symptoms of depression, but some are more likely to occur, such as:
- Physical symptoms such as headaches
- Anger and agitation
- Substance abuse
Depression can become a reality no matter your age, but the statistics suggest that 7% of over 60s suffer from it – which is more than those under 60. In general, the older you get the more likely it is you are to feel the physical effects of depression such as fatigue and unexplained pains.
Sadly, depression does all affect a number of children and teenagers too. If you’re worried your child or teenager is suffering from depression, look out for changes in behaviour at home or in school. Signs and symptoms might include:
- Increased hostility or angry outbursts
- Low mood
- Less interaction with their friends
- A drop in concentration or deterioration in academic performance
Other circumstances in your life can make you more vulnerable to depression. It’s rarely just one single cause, but life events such as these can combine with other factors to trigger depression:
- A recent divorce
- Loss of your job
- Death of a loved one
- High levels of stress
- Chronic illness or pain
How is Depression Diagnosed?
For a diagnosis of depression to be confirmed, a doctor will assess your state of mind and look for specific symptoms. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) criteria, which is used to diagnose depression, doctors must look for two ‘core’ symptoms:
- During the last month have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?
- Do you have little interest or pleasure in doing things?
Doctors making the assessment will look to see if one, or both, of these symptoms have been present for at least two weeks.
When Should I Seek Help?
No matter your gender, age or life circumstances, know that depression is a treatable condition and help is not only available, it’s what you deserve to get your life back on track.
If you feel like the symptoms detailed above are having a damaging effect on your life, it may be time to seek professional help. The first place to head is your GP, who can offer you professional advice and a diagnosis.
Alternatively, you could seek depression treatment here at Priory, where we can work with you to develop a recovery programme that fits your needs and circumstances. We offer intensive inpatient stays, weekly therapy sessions that fit in with your life and work commitments, and online therapy that allows you to recover from the comfort of your own home.
Depression is a mental illness, not a sign of weakness. You can make a full and lasting recovery. Get the support you need today by contacting us and speaking to our highly trained mental health professionals about the difficulties you’ve been experiencing.