Depression is fast becoming a common experience, with estimates that approximately one in four will experience a clinical episode of depression over their lifetime.
Some people mistakenly believe that treating depression is just a matter of changing one’s attitude or “thinking positively”. As we now know, when we feel sad, our physical health also suffers and we then experience very real physical symptoms which make getting back on track even harder. This can quickly spiral into a cycle of worsening emotional and psychological issues, which in turn can effect your physical health. In fact, depression has been identified as one of the biggest health concerns and certainly the most concerning mental health issue. The World Health Organisation has estimated that by 2020 the second largest burden from ill health globally will be depression (second only to AIDS).
Depression is in generally understood to be a period of persistent low mood and unhappiness.
According to clinical standards, in order to be diagnosed with depression one must have experienced a number of clinical symptoms. These include at least five of the following for approximately two weeks:
• Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, (e.g., feeling sad, blue, “down in the dumps,” or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful or about to cry). (In children and adolescents, this may present as an irritable or cranky, rather than sad, mood.)
• Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities every day, such as no interest in hobbies, sports, or other things the person used to enjoy doing.
• Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
• Insomnia or hypersomnia
• Psychomotor agitation (e.g., restlessness, inability to sit still, pacing, pulling at clothes or clothes) or retardation (e.g., slowed speech, movements, quiet talking) nearly every day
• Fatigue, tiredness, or loss of energy nearly every day (e.g., even the smallest tasks, like dressing or washing, seem difficult to do and take longer than usual).
• Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day (e.g., ruminating over minor past failings).
• Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (e.g. appears easily distracted, complains of memory difficulties).
• Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideas without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
Depression can effect you relationships, your social life, your work and study goals and your outlook. If you are experiencing these symptoms you can get help. Research has shown that psychological therapy such as CBT, ACT and interpersonal therapy is effective in treating depression. A chat with your GP could help you find a clinical psychologist you feel comfortable with and with whom you can work with to learn strategies, skills and get the insights you need to overcome your depression and help prevent future relapses.