In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn't stop you leading a normal life, but makes everything seem harder to do and everything might seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression is all-consuming. Suicidal feelings or suicide ideation is common.
Many sufferers report loss of interest in things that once gave them pleasure. People suffering from depression have a constant inner-dialogue of self-criticism and self-hatred. Many depressed people believe that it is their own fault, if only they could "pull themselves together".
There can be physical symptoms, too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and complaining of various aches and pains.
Depression is relatively common. It affects about one in ten of us at some points in our lives. Depression can happen to anyone and it can strike at any time, but many clients will notice a first episode of depression in their teens or twenties. Depression affects almost twice as many women as it does men.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe, and include:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite, with weight loss or weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Tiredness, decrease in energy
- Insomnia, excessive sleeping
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Excessive self-criticism and self-blame
- Feelings of guilt, unworthiness
- Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, a sense that things would be better if "I wasn't here"
Depression is a complicated disease. The causes of depression are largely unknown, but a number of factors are linked to its development. Depression usually results from a combination of recent events and other longer-term personal factors, rather than one immediate issue or event.
Life events - job loss, relationship breakdown, chronic illness, can all bring about a depressive episode. Depression can run in families and some people will be at an increased genetic risk. Some people may be more at risk of depression because of early childhood trauma, low self-esteem. Mostly likely depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
Treatment for depression may involve psychotherapy, medication or a combination of the two. Psychotherapy can help alleviate the underlying issues beneath depression and depressive episodes. It helps clients challenge the negative self-beliefs and self criticism. It helps clients make the necessary changes in diet, life-style and work balance, to achieve lasting relief from their depressive symptoms.