What is Depression?
Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.
Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.
Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They're wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression isn't a sign of weakness or something you can "snap out of" by "pulling yourself together".
The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.
Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.
They range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety. There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains. However, some people may have little to no physical symptoms and are functioning professionals dealing with depression.
The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while severe depression can make you feel suicidal, that life is no longer worth living. Most people experience feelings of stress, unhappiness or anxiety during difficult times. A low mood may improve after a short period of time, rather than being a sign of depression.
Luckily there are many ways of treating depression, the treatment you may receive will depend on the type of depression you have.
Different Types of Depression and possible treatments:
· Mild Depression - wait and see, exercise, self-help groups
· Mild to Moderate Depression - talking treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling
· Moderate to Severe Depression – antidepressants, combination therapy, mental health
What are the different treatments?
Wait and see: if you're diagnosed with mild depression, it may improve by itself. In this case, you'll be seen again by your GP after two weeks to monitor your progress. This is known as "watchful waiting".
Exercise: there's evidence that exercise can help depression, and it's one of the main treatments for mild depression. You may be referred to a qualified fitness trainer for an exercise scheme. You can also find out more about starting exercise and exercise for depression.
Self-help groups: talking through your feelings can be helpful. You could talk to a friend or relative, or you can ask your GP to suggest a local self-help group. Find out more about depression support groups. Your GP may also recommend self-help books and online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Antidepressants: antidepressants are tablets that treat the symptoms of depression. There are almost 30 different types of antidepressant. They have to be prescribed by a doctor, usually for depression that's moderate or severe.
Combination therapy: your GP may recommend that you take a course of antidepressants plus talking therapy, particularly if your depression is quite severe. A combination of an antidepressant and CBT usually works better than having just one of these treatments.
Mental health teams: if you have severe depression, you may be referred to a mental health team made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses and occupational therapists. These teams often provide intensive specialist talking treatments as well as prescribed medication.
Talking therapy: there are different types of talking therapy for depression, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling. Your GP can refer you for talking treatment or, in some parts of the country, you might be able to refer yourself. Some talking treatments include; Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Online CBT, Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and counselling.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves paying closer attention to the present moment, and focusing on your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the world around you to improve your mental wellbeing. The aim is to develop a better understanding of your mind and body, and to learn how to live with more appreciation and less anxiety.
Who can help?
It's important to seek help from your GP if you think you may be depressed. Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression, but it's best not to delay. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can be on the way to recovery. You can also refer yourself to other services designed to help with depression.
Mental health challenges are common but help is available and with the right support many people recover completely. Check out our Who Can Help Page for lots of services who are local and national!
*Some information gathered from www.nhs.uk and the services listed.