Everyone feels depressed now and again. Just as sometimes we feel happier than normal, sometimes feel less happy than normal. This is not usually a problem and just a part of life.
However, sometimes this depression can be more severe and can start to affect our life. When the depression impacts on how we manage day-to-day, then this is sometimes called “clinical depression”.
Depression can affect us in many ways. These include: problems sleeping, feeling there is no point in getting up, not eating, eating too much, lack of concentration, feeling anxious. Sometimes the depression can get so bad that we think of taking our own life.
Depression can often be triggered by an event such as bereavement or losing a job. However, at other times there can be no obvious “reason”. Some people who experience depression talk of “dark clouds” gathering and a growing feeling of sadness.
What can you do if you feel depressed?
Depression has many different causes and affects us in many different ways, so there is no single answer. However, some of the suggestions below should help to make a difference. If you are feeling very low, then don’t try to do it all on your own - get help from someone else, such as a friend or a doctor. There is no shame in being depressed and many famous people have experienced depression, from the gardener Monty Don to Winston Churchill.
Exercise – physical activity has a positive effect on the brain and how we feel. Even going for a walk can prove beneficial for some people. Some doctors are now experimenting with prescribing exercise to patients experiencing depression. The results suggest it can make a real difference.
Eating – when you are depressed, diet can really suffer. Some people eat ‘for comfort’, especially chocolate and sugary foods. Other people eat less than they should. A balanced diet affects the chemicals in our body and can help our mood. Research is beginning to show that diet can make a big difference. Fish oil in particular seems to make a difference. Jamie Oliver’s series on school dinners has helped to highlight how diet can affect behaviour.
Self-help – there are lots of books and CD-ROMs on the market.
Meditation – for hundreds of years, people have practiced meditation. Many people find this has a positive affect on their feelings and emotions.
Make a plan – some people experiencing depression feel they have lost control. By giving yourself the time and space to make a plan, you may be able to regain control.
Friends – some people don’t feel like going out when they are depressed. However, being around other people may well help. Even if you don’t talk/sign about how you are feeling, just spending some time with other people can help lift your mood.
If your depression is not getting better, then you may have to consider seeing your GP. It is likely that they will prescribe some form of anti-depressant. A large number of people in the UK are currently taking anti-depressants, and you should not see it as a sign of failure.
Many of the newer drugs (the SSRIs) have fewer side-effects than earlier medications. However, your GP should see you again after you start taking the medication to check that everything is okay. The medication works by influencing chemicals in the brain, so your levels of serotonin become higher. The serotonin affects how depressed you feel. Some people describe it as numbing the pain.
There are lots of different types of therapy. The two main approaches you are likely to come across are:
- Counselling is often used after a bereavement, or for help with a relationship. Counsellors will not normally tell you what you need to do, but give you the space to think about why you are feeling low, and explore this with you. This then helps you find your own solutions.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has become very popular in recent years. CBT focuses on your thoughts and developing strategies to deal with negative thoughts. It is normally very focused on the immediate ‘problem’ and often people only need a few sessions with a therapist.
Therapists and counsellors can be found through local newspapers, the Internet or local directories. If possible, try to find one who is accredited by a national body. SignHealth has a counselling service that has links with therapists who use BSL.
Your GP should also be able to refer you to a counsellor or therapist. Some doctors are even able to pay for you to have a limited number of sessions. If you would like to see a signing therapist then you need to contact SignHealth's service.
If you need more information about depression, or any other mental health problem, then try the following links: