Depression. A word wildly thrown around to mean anything from those suffering from the illness to someone complaining about a trivial incident. Those that say depression “isn’t real” and you can “just think positive” are wrong – depression is real and debilitating. Today I want to discuss what constitutes as depression and how to get help.
The symptoms of depression are vast and are normally investigated by anecdotal reports, by yourself, friend or a family member. Commonly reported issues are low mood, hopelessness, low self-esteem, feeling irritable and guilty. What a lot of people also don’t realise is that there are also physical symptoms like unexplained aches and pains, stomach issues, disturbed sleep and even changes to your period. Whilst depression takes place in the brain, your body reacts to it in the same way too and will show signs before you might have acknowledged what is going on.
What might surprise you is how little time you need to feel like this to be classed as depressed; according to the DSM, low persistent mood, along with a small battery of other issues, only need to be felt over a 2-week period to rationalise you going to get help. 2 weeks, that’s it.
The next question you might have is what causes it. As with a lot of mental health topics, we’re still not 100% sure. We know it can run in families, be triggered by an upsetting life event, or by long-term stress and illness. What is currently theorised is that the first episode is “reactive”, like aforementioned situations, but over a longer period of time, it becomes “endogenous”, either occurring spontaneously or to something we have previously coped well with. And, in fact, has been shown that brain structures can change resulting in increased sensitivity to stressful events.
First of all, if you’re considering help, you should be so proud of yourself. Talking about depression and the stigma around it is incredibly hard. My first bit of advice, go down to your local GP to discuss getting help. If it hasn’t been that long that you’ve been experiencing persistent low mood, they may tell you to watch and wait. Sometimes depression can just go away by itself. If you want to make some positive life changes, try including some mindfulness into your day. There are tonnes of YouTube videos that can help you get started here, and it’s ruddy hard at first, but keep at it! Otherwise, try to go outside, exercise and eat well. All things I know are really hard when you’re low, but they help massively.
You may also get recommended anti-depressants. A lot of people are really put off taking these, but I’d encourage you to think about it before refusing help. Depression is partly caused by a neurological imbalance, so taking anti-depressants may help to alleviate that issue. You take medicine when you’re sick; think of it like an antibiotic for depression. Anti-depressants help to take the edge of your mood and can stop more wild mood swings. Though it won’t work for everyone, that and including positive life changes can be amazingly beneficial.
Finally, the last option is therapy. The most successful treatment is a combination of meds and therapy, however, the NHS is overloaded and it takes a long time to get an appointment. When you do get one, they will most likely use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT recognises that thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and negative thoughts are all interlinked and can trap you in a vicious cycle. Its aim is to help you become your own therapist, challenge negative thought patterns and help you problem solve. CBT can only help with current issues, and if your depression is linked with matters from the past or trauma, you’ll need more of a long-standing talking therapy. CBT is short-term but is effective if you commit yourself to it, so you need to be ready to work hard and look at your thought critically. Here’s the link to find an NHS service.
Well, there is my bumper guide to depression. It’s taken me way too long to write this as I could see too much of myself in it for a while, but I think it’s so important to discuss. I’ve left links, as I can’t talk about everything in depth, but hopefully, this helps if you aren’t sure what is going on in your head. You can message me at any time and I’ll try and give advice!