According to the World Health Organisation, one in five women and one in ten men are likely to experience depression at some time. Sadly, many cases go unreported and undiagnosed though, as people try to ignore their symptoms or feel embarrassed that they’re feeling so bad or not coping.
What is depression?
Firstly, let’s be clear what depression is not. It’s not just feeling sad or down for a while, usually as a result of some event or circumstance, and it’s not just “all in your mind”. What it is, is a medical condition that causes changes in our brain chemistry, resulting in physical, emotional and mental symptoms that make it very difficult to function normally in any aspect of our lives.
What are the symptoms?
These manifest differently for different people, but some of the most common are:
- Feeling sad and down for a large part of each day
- Feeling tired all the time for no apparent reason
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling unworthy, guilty, helpless or hopeless
- Experiencing ongoing anxiety
- Struggling to sleep or sleeping too much
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Ongoing thoughts of death or of harming yourself
Many people suffer from some of these symptoms, but if you experience several of them fairly consistently for a long period of time, you may be depressed.
What to do if you suspect you’re depressed
The first thing you need to understand is that you are not alone. Statistics show that one in four people will suffer from some form of mental health problem during their lifetime. The good news is that, once diagnosed, depression is usually very treatable. The first step is to visit a doctor to check that the symptoms you’re experiencing are not a result of medication or another condition like a virus or hypothyroidism. From there, your doctor may refer you to other mental healthcare professionals.
Some common ways to treat depression include:
- Working with a psychologist or psychiatrist
- Specialised medication
- Adjusting sleeping, eating or exercise habits
- Creating strategies for stress management
- Depression management techniques such as adjusting self-talk and journaling
If you’re worried you may be depressed, it’s really important to seek support immediately. It may not seem like it now, but with the right treatment, you could soon be feeling better and able to appreciate all the joys of life again.