Depression is an overwhelming illness that can impact every single area of your life, from your career to your relationships.
However, if you’re affected by depression, it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and that help is available.
Here, we look at the symptoms and triggers of depression, so you can make an informed approach to your treatment.
What is depression?
Depression is a mental health condition that can impact sufferers emotionally and physically. Anxiety and depression affect nearly one in five adults in the UK, and typically affect a higher proportion of women than men.
Symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. It can manifest as anything from sadness or feelings of low spirits, to a lack of motivation, feeling like nothing is worthwhile, difficulty with day-to-day routines, or in its most extreme form, suicidal thoughts or actions.
Everyone has times when they feel down, and these times will often pass. However, when these feelings are recurring or long-term, and influence your ability to cope with daily life, it may be time to seek help.
Am I depressed?
Depression should be diagnosed by a qualified health professional, but if you are experiencing any of the symptoms below frequently, it is possible that you are depressed.
Understanding that your symptoms are due to depression is the first step. Sometimes the onset of depression comes gradually, which means some people don’t even realise that they’re depressed. Diagnosis can be a massive relief – you know that you’re not going mad, and that you’re not alone.
Symptoms of depression
Common symptoms of depression
- Feelings of sadness
- Low mood
- Becoming tearful easily
- Anxiety or unease
- Negative thoughts
- Forgetfulness, or difficulty concentrating
- Feeling isolated or cutting yourself off from others
- Lack of motivation
- Not enjoying or losing interest in activities you previously liked
- Having a low or no sex drive
- Physical aches or pains with no underlying cause
- Headaches, cramps or digestive problems
- Constant tiredness
- Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more than usual
- Loss of appetite, or eating a lot more than usual
- Using more stimulants, such as cigarettes or alcohol, than usual
- Apathy about the future
The NHS has a self-assessment tool which, whilst not a direct substitute for a doctor’s consultation, can provide helpful information and indicate the best path to diagnosis and treatment.
If your symptoms of depression are severe, you may also self-harm, have psychotic experiences or have suicidal thoughts. If you think you may cause harm to yourself or others, visit Mind and use their ‘I need urgent help’ function, or call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 08457 90 90 90.
What causes depression?
Depression is often triggered by a significant life event – for instance, the death of a loved one, or a major life change like losing your job, getting divorced, or even suffering a miscarriage.
Other common causes of depression include a chronic or ongoing health complaint or condition, or a side effect of medication. It can also stem from childhood experiences, or be genetic.
Lifestyle factors can contribute toward your likelihood of developing depression, if you have an especially bad diet, take little to no exercise, or abuse substances like alcohol or drugs (alcohol is a known depressant).
However, whatever the cause of your depression, it is important to visit your doctor and get appropriate guidance on self-help or treatment.
As the NHS advises, ‘Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression, but it’s best not to delay. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can be on the way to recovery.’