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World Health Day - Depression: Let's talk
Published on 24 March 2017 by Marie-Clare Mendham, updated on 02 May 2017
What is Depression?
Depression is a mental health condition where a person has a long lasting low mood, and that can affect a person's thoughts, behaviours, feelings, and sense of well being. People with a depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, angry, ashamed, or restless, and may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions. They may experience relationship difficulties and may contemplate suicide even. Insomnia, excessive sleep, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems, or reduced energy may also be present.
What Causes Depression?
Depression is a complex condition, that doesn't spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals or from just having a bad day. Rather, depression has many possible causes. Factors that can contribute to the onset of depression include genetics, changes in hormone levels, certain medical conditions, medications, stress, grief or difficult life events.
Consequences of untreated Depression
Untreated clinical depression is a serious problem. It can increase the chance of risky behaviours such as drug or alcohol addiction. It also can ruin relationships, cause problems at work, and make it difficult to overcome serious illness.
One of the biggest obstacles to seeking treatment for depression is the stigma of mental illness, but it is important to talk to someone as the consequences of untreated depression can not be ignored: it is treatable.
Getting Help Getting a diagnosis is crucial. This can be done by your GP, a Psychiatrist or Psychologist. Talk therapy and medication are often used as the first line of treatment for depression.
Talk therapy Talk therapy involves discussing your problems and how you feel with a trained therapist. Your therapist can help you detect patterns of thoughts or behaviours that contribute to your depression and teach you exercises to reduce stress and anxiety, and help you understand your illness. A therapist can also help you create strategies to identify and avoid any triggers that exacerbate your depression. They can also help you develop coping mechanisms for when you experience these triggers. Talk therapy provides a confidential space with which you can feel safe and explore difficult emotions that you are struggling to cope with.
However the best treatment is often a combination of talking therapy and medication.
Medication Depression medications are a common part of treatment. Some people use these medications for a short time, while others use them long term. Your doctor will take multiple factors into consideration before prescribing any medication.
What to do if you think someone you know is depressed
When someone you know and love is clinically depressed, you want to be there for that person. But keep in mind that your friend or loved one has a medical condition, so giving support may mean more than just offering a shoulder to cry on.
Depression is a medical condition requiring medical care. As a family member or friend, you can listen to the person and give your support, but that might not be enough. If you keep this in mind, it can prevent you from losing patience or getting frustrated with them because your best efforts don't "cure" their depression. "People that are depressed can't sleep it off; they can't avoid it". So it is important that you encourage them to seek help as soon as possible. It is treatable.