Everyone at some point has said “I’m feeling depressed today”. The term “depression” is used very widely but it is a complicated condition with a wide range of symptoms and degrees and most people don’t know what depression truly is. We all feel low from time to time but depression in a clinical setting is much more serious and has many emotional, physical and behavioural symptoms that go with it. When someone says to me “I’m feeling depressed” I ask them specifically how they’re feeling – too many times the word Depression is used to describe a feeling that is completely normal for someone to be experiencing in their particular situation, for example “my gran died two weeks ago and I still feel depressed” – two weeks really isn’t that long, depending on how close they were to their gran, in a normal grieving cycle I wouldn’t be surprised they were still upset. People put too much pressure on themselves in everyday life and this is one of the reasons conditions like depression crop up. In this article I’ll describe the different types of depression and explain the true impact the condition can have on someone’s life.
Mild depression is often a symptom of loss, grief and change. It has a lot in common with anxiety in that there can be genetic links, early childhood trauma can cause both, and specific personality traits or psychological vulnerability can direct someone towards suffering from a specific disorder. There is also the possibility of a hormone imbalance that can cause both depression and anxiety. Clinical depression is more severe, symptoms may be increased in number or severity. Typical symptoms of depression include:
Emotional: constant low mood, sadness, a feeling of hopelessness, feeling helpless, low self esteem, tearful, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, lack of concentration, irritable, suicidal thoughts, no enjoyment of life questioning “what’s the point?”, worrying more, thoughts of self harm, feelings of emptiness (some people describe it as feeling hollow, like they have no emotion), loneliness.
Behavioural: low tolerance of others, no motivation, family or home life affected, quality of work affected, find it difficult to make decisions, less social activity perhaps avoiding people, procrastinating, just wanting to stay in bed and hide away from the world, not looking after yourself. Self defeating behaviours tend to crop up as a way of coping, for example using alcohol or drugs to escape from the emotional torment.
Physical: loss of appetite, disturbed sleep or insomnia, loss of libido, moving slower than usual, speaking slower, lack of energy, headaches, back pain, muscle aches and joint pain, chest pain, digestive problems, IBS, exhaustion and fatigue, dizziness or light headedness.
Lots of these symptoms are also experienced with anxiety. Like anxiety and stress, depression and stress are closely linked. One can cause the other, in my experience all cases of depression have demonstrated certain stress levels, usually high levels of stress.
Funnily enough as I’m writing this I’m also simultaneously watching a film based on a true story about a woman who was stalked (multi tasking – my favourite past time!). She has begun to show symptoms of depression – she’s been under a lot of stress, she can’t stop worrying, she’s not eating or sleeping, she doesn’t want to do anything or go anywhere, she’s quit her job and stopped looking after herself, she has a constant low mood, very tearful, she seems to not care about her life anymore as if she’s lost herself and she’s contemplating suicide. She isn’t just scared of her stalker, she isn’t dealing with the amount of stress she’s under – and her best friend just suggested she go see a counsellor because she needs to talk about everything that’s happened so she can deal with it. Now that is a good friend in my opinion!
Lots of situations in life cause us to be stressed. If you feel you’re not coping you’re not alone. Many, many people go through depression and those that choose to get help for their depression are the ones that not only learn to cope with how they feel in the moment but also they learn coping mechanisms that will help them throughout life. This means that should they be in a situation that could cause them depression in the future, they have the tools to deal with it head on. Some people are able to recover from depression on their own, my hat goes off to them, but these people are few and far between. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you need help. There’s everything right with helping yourself feel better by getting the help you need.
Unfortunately depression still carries a certain amount of stigma. Some people see you as a freak, there’s something wrong with you, why can’t you cope like everyone else, it’s a disease that will catch because you’ll bring everyone else down etc. Ironically there are also people out there who don’t believe depression exists, that it’s a myth, that you should just pull your socks up, stop being so God-damn lazy and get on with it like everyone else. These people are usually repressed – in other words they never deal with anything themselves, they bottle everything up and have virtually no self-awareness. Please don’t take any notice of either point of view. In my personal opinion, those who stigmatise people with depression or any other mental or emotional illness simply do not understand it fully and could even be suffering from mental or emotional problems themselves. It’s called denial, and unfortunately it’s everywhere. If you do think you may be struggling with depression, or just struggling in general, getting help is the strongest thing you can do and don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. They don’t know what they’re talking about.
Please bear in mind that depression, like anxiety and stress, can be cyclical. If you feel very low for certain periods of days, weeks or months and then seem to be OK for a while that doesn’t mean that it won’t still affect your life or that you don’t need help. These periods likely have a trigger, finding and dealing with that trigger is more likely to lead to a happier and more fulfilled life rather than dreading the next onset of symptoms.
If anybody would like me to write on anything specifically please drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time I’ll write about Self Defeating Behaviours – we all have lots of them so I’m starting a series of articles that will hopefully help in understanding them!!
For more information about getting counselling please go to www.chelmsfordtherapyrooms.co.uk