What is depression?

Depression is a very common mental health issue and it is thought that 1 in 10 people will experience it at some point in their life. It can often be brought about by difficult life events such as losing a job, the breakdown of a relationship, a bereavement or financial stress. Whilst many people will experience mild symptoms, depression can become severe and can begin to have a major impact on an individual’s day to day life and wellbeing. The first step in learning how to tackle depression is understanding what it is and how it affects us.

How do I know if I am depressed?

In mild cases, depression can leave us feeling down in the dumps but does not get in the way of our day to day life. However, in its most severe form it can leave us feeling unable to carry out basic daily activities and can lead to distressing thoughts of self-harm or suicide. It can be hard to work out whether you may be suffering from depression. Here are some common physical, mental and behavioural symptoms.

  • Your body: Tired, lethargic, gaining or losing weight, a change in appetite, difficulty sleeping, feeling restless, decreased sex drive.
  • Your feelings: Despairing, guilty, upset, numb, feeling lonely despite company, crying,
  • irritable, unable to cope.
  • Your thoughts: A loss of confidence, wanting to harm yourself, suicidal thoughts, feeling
  • pessimistic, everything seems useless or hopeless, hating yourself, thinking you’re not
  • good enough.
  • Your behaviour: Avoiding responsibilities, avoiding social interactions, staying in bed,
  • avoiding decisions, avoiding activities that you previously enjoyed.

Do you regularly experience any of these symptoms for an extended period of time? Then it’s possible that you could be suffering from depression. Ultimately, depression leaves us feeling very negative about ourselves, our situation, the world around us and our future.

What causes depression?

There can be many reasons for depression. Sometimes it’s due to a specific situation, such as a bereavement, a job loss or the breakdown of a relationship. Sometimes people may have a predisposition towards depression due to family history, their bodily makeup or as a result of things that happened in their childhood. Sometimes, there is no obvious reason for depression at all. The positive thing to remember is that, no matter the cause is, there is help available. Just as people have different reasons for their depression, there are also different ways of treating it.

Research has shed some light on how our thoughts and behaviours can change as a result of depression and, more importantly, how they can cause a vicious circle. When a person is depressed, they may become lethargic and lacking in confidence. They may begin thinking that they are useless or that people don’t like them. As a result of this, they might withdraw from social situations and isolate themselves. Consequently, they spend more time on their own which leads to more time to think negative thoughts. And so the vicious circle continues!

Understanding how depression is caused and how it affects us is the first step in learning how to tackle it.