What is Depression?

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What is Depression?

Depression can be described as many things and can mean many things to different people. 

Commonly it’s described as a persistent low mood, an overpowering unhappiness and/or the feeling that you can no longer experience joy.

We can all feel sad or low at times, but this is not a constant state that we term “depression”. When this becomes a persistent state of mind it may be a short term ‘depressed mood’, if this is not addressed and you can no longer cope or manage, this can then develop to what we call ‘clinical depression’, that is , a medical professional has diagnosed you with depression.

Clinical depression lasts for at least two weeks and affects your behaviour as well as emotions. Those with clinical depression are often described by others as ‘not themselves’ or ‘a different person’ due to the severe changes it can make to your state of thoughts and state of being. It begins to affect your ability to function as well as impact your relationships with those around you. Clinical depression can last many months and sometimes years.

Depression is more common than we realise, however it can become a serious mental illness if left unchecked and unmanaged. Many people recover from depression, either by their own support mechanisms or via specialist help, however depression can return in episodes. 

How can we look out for signs of depression in ourselves and others?

Those who have been depressed or have suffered from depression often describe symptoms including;

  • Poor self esteem
  • feelings of guilt when they are not at fault,
  • suicidal thoughts,
  • lacking the ability to concentrate,
  • pessimistic outlooks,
  • difficulty sleeping
  • and a lack of appetite. 

These are warning signs we can look out for in those around us.

We can also look out for physical signs too. Perhaps someone is looking sad, is slow in their movements, speaking slowly or in a monotonous tone which they haven’t done before.

Their appearance is unkempt and they show a lack of attention to themselves or others or have poor personal hygiene. They may also become agitated occasionally or present a sense of worthlessness.

We can also look out for things depressed people might say and the language they might use. 

Where does depression come from? 

Whilst there is no one contributing factor, it can involve risk factors such as biological, psychological and social factors.

Commonly you may become depressed when something very distressing has happened and the situation is out of your control.

What are examples of risk factors?

Biological risk factors

  • Genetics,
  • Family history of clinical depression
  • Living with other family members who have depression .

Psychological factors

  • Adverse childhood experiences such as lack of care and neglect
  • Abuse
  • Bereavement

Social factors

  • Poverty
  • Lack of education
  • Living Conditions

Depression can also result from medical conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, Strokes, Vitamin B12 Deficiency, hypothyroidism, hepatitis, glandular fever, HIV as well as some cancers.

It can also result from the side effects of some drugs and a lack of exposure to UAV light, most prevalent in the winter months, commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or ‘SAD’ for short. 

What can we do to support those who we believe to be suffering from depression?

Most importantly we can promote positive wellbeing, avoiding a state of depression to occur in the first place.

We can assess the pressures we place on ourselves and others.

We can proactively avoid stigma in society, allowing more people to talk openly about their physical and emotional state.

Promote mental health awareness as well as promoting mental wellness in workplaces. 

If you think someone is suffering from depression you can also help them in the following ways ….

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