Depression is the most common form of mental illness – but what are the signs and treatments?
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Our understanding of mental health has come a long way in the last decade and it’s now widely understood that depression is far more than ‘the blues’.
According to Mental Health First Aid England, one in four people experience mental health problems each year.
They also report: “Mental illness is the second-largest source of burden of disease in England. Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than other health conditions.
“One in six workers will experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time.
“There were 602,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018 – 2019 in Great Britain.”
Depression is the predominant mental health problem in people worldwide.
What is depression?
Depression is a complex illness and there is no set parameter for knowing how long symptoms may last, or how often they occur.
There are different levels of severity too and the NHS state three types.
Mild depression – which has some impact on your day-to-day life.
Moderate depression – has a big impact and effect on your daily routine.
Severe depression makes it close to impossible to cope with the general struggles of the day.
Depression is not the same as grief; people can still enjoy parts of their life while feeling grief.
Depression tends to give – at its mildest – a feeling that everything is less than worthwhile and a feeling of being generally in low spirits.
What are the symptoms of depression?
The NHS list three types of symptoms of depression, the first of which is more simple.
‘Social symptoms’ are where a person suffering depression avoids doing the things they like, has trouble managing personal and professional relationships, or avoids contact with people.
Physical symptoms of depression can include:
- moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
- unexplained aches and pains
- lack of energy
- low sex drive
- changes to your menstrual cycle
- disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning
The psychological symptoms of depression include:
- continuous low mood or sadness
- feeling hopeless and helpless
- having low self-esteem
- feeling tearful
- feeling guilt-ridden
- feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- having no motivation or interest in things
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- not getting any enjoyment out of life
- feeling anxious or worried
- having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
What are the different types of depression?
‘Seasonal affective disorder’ (SAD) occurs at a particular time of the year. This is more common during winter months.
Postnatal depression is depression that occurs in the year after giving birth and prenatal, also known as ‘antenatal’, affects people during pregnancy.
Dysthymia is also known as ‘persistent depressive disorder’ or ‘chronic depression’. It is a mild depression that last for over two years.
Bipolar disorder is also known as ‘manic depression’.
People with bipolar disorder can experience manic episodes of very high mood which can lead them to indulge in harmful activities like gambling, as well as low moods which are akin to people with severe depression.
How to get treatment for depression
There are various treatments for depression, according to mental health charity, Mind.
For mild depression, there are plenty of self-help resources that can help you. This may be in the form of physical activity or an online class.
Therapy is also an effective way of tackling depression and certain techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy are known to get results.
Finally, a lot of people find that medication is useful for treating depression and there are many different types. Guidance should come from the doctor who prescribes it to you both for taking the medication, as well as withdrawing from it.
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised here then visit Mind for advice and guidance.