- Low Self-Esteem
- Self-Help Strategies
- Bipolar disorder
Depression is different from being sad or down for a while – which are, of course, very normal emotional states. With depression, the feelings may be the same, but they are typically severe, pervasive, and last many weeks or months rather than just for a few hours or days.
They are usually bad enough to have a serious effect on your work, relationships and all other areas of life. It’s hard to say how many people suffer from depression in the course of their lives, but it seems to affect women more often than men (though this may well be because fewer men report feeling depressed).
It’s likely that around 20 percent of all people will have depression at some point over their lives, with the most common age of onset being between 20 and 40.
The good news is that depression is becoming more and more widely recognised as a genuine medical condition. Although it is still not talked about as openly as other conditions, almost everyone will either have suffered from it themselves or know someone well who has. Treatment is also getting better and better, with advances in antidepressants and counselling, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Stress and depression
There are many factors that contribute to depression, probably including genetic, psychological and social ones. However, the episode is usually triggered by a specific event or set of circumstances.
Stress from one source or another can lead to what is depression because it changes the way we think. When we are stressed, a number of physical and mental processes occur. Although these may be helpful in solving the immediate problem that has caused the stress, they are generally unhealthy in the long term. When we’re stressed, we tend to think about things in simple, black-and-white terms. Stress is our body’s response to a threat, and this psychological shift from a normal, measured reaction to such ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking is designed to get us out of danger as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, if we remain under stress and that mode of thinking continues and is extended to other areas of life, it makes us more anxious, less flexible, and harder on ourselves – and consequently, far more prone to depression.
Symptoms of depression
Although depression has no obvious outward signs and cannot currently be diagnosed by any medical tests, such as a blood test, it does involve a change in brain chemistry that has numerous effects on us. Diagnosing depression is usually carried out by looking at these effects, and often with psychological tests that gauge how you have felt recently.
What is depression in practice? Common symptoms of depression include:
Feeling tired all the time
Loss of interest in everyday activities we would usually enjoy
Inability to sleep, or sleeping too much
Avoiding spending time with people
Changes in appetite
Lack of confidence, self-blame or feelings of worthlessness
Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Otherwise unexplained physical complaints
Your doctor or a trained counsellor should be able to identify depression quickly and effectively, and suggest a course of treatment.