Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.
Depression is different from feeling down or sad. Unhappiness is something which everyone feels at one time or another, usually due to a particular cause. A person experiencing depression will experience intense emotions of anxiety, hopelessness, negativity and helplessness, and the feelings stay with them instead of going away.
Depression can happen to anyone. Many successful and famous people who seem to have everything going for them battle with this problem. Depression also affects people of every age.
Half of the people who have depression will only experience it once but for the other half it will happen again. The length of time that it takes to recover ranges from around six months to a year or more.
Living with depression is difficult for those who suffer from it and for their family, friends, and colleagues. It can be difficult to know if you are depressed and what you can do about it.
Signs and symptoms
If you experience four or more of these symptoms for most of the day - every day - for more than two weeks, you should seek help from your GP.
What leads to depression?
Depression can happen suddenly as a result of physical illness, experiences dating back to childhood, unemployment, bereavement, family problems or other life-changing events.
Examples of chronic illnesses linked to depression include heart disease, back pain and cancer. Pituitary damage, a treatable condition which frequently follows head injuries, may also lead to depression.
Sometimes, there may be no clear reason for your depression but, whatever the original cause, identifying what may affect how you feel and the things that are likely to trigger depression is an important first step.
Types of depression:
How do I get help?
Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and some forms of counselling and psychotherapy work well for depression, although you may have to wait to see a therapist on the NHS. You can pay to see someone privately and your GP may be able to recommend someone. Always check that any private therapist is registered with a professional body.
There are several different kinds of talking therapy. Your GP can advise you about which you might find most helpful.
Counselling gives people the chance to talk through everyday issues that may be causing depression and to develop strategies for resolving them.
Medication will not always be the first choice, especially if your depression is mild. There are a number of different types of antidepressants available. Your GP can explain which they believe is the best for you and why. What your doctor prescribes will depend on the type and severity of depression you have. If you experience problems from your medicine or have any concerns, speak to your GP.
If one medication does not work you may be prescribed something else. However it takes a few weeks before your medicine starts to work so you need to allow enough time to see if it is going to be effective.
It is important that you take the medicine for the length of time recommended by your GP. If you come off your medicine too soon (even if you feel better) this can lead to a relapse where the depression returns. As a rough guide, you will usually have to remain on treatment for at least six to nine months and in many cases it could be longer.
You need to follow your GP’s advice when you are coming off your medicine as it can be harmful if this is done too quickly.
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