The term ‘depression’ is often bandied about by those who are feeling down or are in a bad mood, but it is actually a mental health problem that can severely affect the life of those who suffer from it. It is perfectly normal to feel down or sad from time to time, but when those feelings of sadness or low self-esteem continue for extended periods they can begin to interfere with daily life, which can have a severe impact on the affected person’s ability to be happy. Those who often ask themselves ‘what is depression and could I be suffering from it?’ should read on. This article will explain the differences between depression and unhappiness and give you a greater understanding of whether you could be affected or not.

How Is Depression Different from Sadness?

Everyone goes through periods where they feel sad or unhappy, and there is usually a perfectly good reason they feel this way. However, those with depression may struggle with feelings of guilt, unhappiness, loss of interest in people or things, low self-esteem, and lack of energy most of the time for no apparent cause. These feelings stay with the individual instead of going away and may leave the person feeling hopeless, anxious, and helpless.

Most people do not really understand depression and how it affects individuals. They may ask the sufferer why they are depressed or comment that they should ‘snap out of it’ as they have nothing to be depressed about. These attitudes are very common but they are not very helpful to the person who is struggling with feelings they too cannot personally comprehend.

It is important to remember that feeling sad or ‘depressed’ does not actually mean you have depression. As already mentioned, depression is a lasting low mood that affects the individual’s ability to get on with everyday life. Those affected find it difficult to take pleasure in anything and will have little or no interest in activities that they once enjoyed.

Those who suffer from depression do not choose to have these feelings, nor are they weak because they have depression. The illness can affect absolutely anyone; in fact, around ten per cent of the population will suffer with depression at some stage in their lives.

It is one of the most common mental health problems and can affect people of all ages. Statistics show that women are more likely to suffer from depression than men are, but many experts believe that these figures are distorted by the fact that more women would seek treatment for depression than men. The good news is that this mental health problem is a treatable one.

Types of Depression

Not all depression is the same; there are several types that can affect individuals, including mild depression, major depression, bi-polar disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), post-natal depression, and psychotic depression. Below is a brief outline of these distinct types of depression:

  • Mild Depression – Mild depression is an illness that has a slight impact on the daily life of the individual. It could prevent him or her from taking pleasure in certain things or it could cause a loss of concentration at work or school, for example.
  • Major Depression – Major depression has a much more severe impact on everyday life and can affect functions such as sleeping and eating. Those who suffer from major depression may find it difficult to get on with daily life and may even get to a point where they feel like harming themselves. Some of those with major depression end up being hospitalised to prevent them from harming themselves or others.
  • Bi-polar Disorder – Bi-polar disorder causes individuals to swing from periods where they are quite manic to others where they are extremely low. The major differences between these episodes can have a deep impact on the person’s ability to enjoy life or form healthy relationships with others. He or she may feel on top of the world one day, followed by deep despair the next. Some may feel suicidal as a result.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – There are some people who go through feelings of deep despair that are associated with the short days of winter. This condition makes sufferers feel depressed, stressed, and anxious during the winter months, and it usually lasts until the days get longer in the springtime. Severe SAD can affect the person’s ability to eat and sleep.
  • Post-Natal Depression – Post-natal depression can be a severe form of depression that affects new mothers. Women who suffer from post-natal depression might feel anxious or suffer from a lack of confidence. For most women, these feelings last a few days before they then pass, but some will find that these feelings persist and may leave them feeling unable to cope. They could have problems with sleep and may be unable to form a loving attachment with their new baby.
  • Psychotic Depression – Severe depression can lead to paranoid delusions or hallucinations, which is referred to as psychotic depression. The individual may start to hear voices in their heads.

What Causes Depression?

There is no single cause of depression for every person. In some, it may be the result of a traumatic experience while in others it might be brought on by their use of mood-altering chemical substances.

Other causes of depression can be linked to hormones or chemicals. Women are often affected by depression because of changes in their hormones. So things such as pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause can all trigger episodes of depression. Studies have also found that low levels of B vitamins and problems with the thyroid can also cause depression.

Family history of depression is another common risk factor for the illness. Those who have a parent with depression are more likely to suffer themselves. Scientists say that this has to do with genes that are passed down as well as the environment in which the individual grew up. Problems and bad experiences during childhood can also increase the risk of a person suffering depression in later life. The young person might begin to have negative ideas about the world and him/herself.

Traumatic experiences can also cause depression. Those who have been the victim of any type of abuse, have been bullied, or who have suffered the death of a loved one have a higher risk of depression. The more trauma a person experiences, the higher his or her risk for depression.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression

Diagnosing depression means taking a good look at the individual’s behaviour and moods. The symptoms will vary from one person to the next, but those who suffer from depression generally feel upset, anxious, hopeless, and have little or no interest in things they used to enjoy. If these feelings persist without any sign of them going away, or if they are recurrent and are having a negative impact on the individual’s life, the person is likely suffering with depression. There are many physical and psychological symptoms that are associated with depression as well. Below are a few examples:

Physical Symptoms

  • Change in appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Constipation
  • Loss of libido
  • Slow movement or slow speech
  • Aches and pains
  • Change in menstrual cycle
  • Problems sleeping

Psychological Symptoms

  • Continuous feelings of sadness or depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to take pleasure in life
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Lack of motivation
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Treatment for Depression

Treatment of depression is available from various providers and usually takes the form of counselling or therapy sessions with qualified professionals. As well as treatment available on the NHS, private clinics, local counsellors, and charities offer excellent treatment programmes to those affected by the illness.

Counsellors use a variety of techniques to help patients to overcome their depression. They will work closely with the affected individual to try to identify the cause of the illness before utilising various methods to help with preventing a return of the condition going forward.

Therapies such as individual counselling, group therapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy work very well for depression and are used by counsellors and therapists working for the various organisations that provide treatment programmes for the illness.

It is worth noting, however, that mental health services within the NHS are severely underfunded and it is very likely that you will have a long wait for treatment if you choose this option. By looking elsewhere, you may get seen much more quickly. This could mean using a private clinic or counsellor.

The cost involved with private treatment for addiction often prevents individuals from reaching out for help, but look at it this way: if you pay for treatment now, you will reap the rewards afterwards. When depression is no longer holding you back, you can start to enjoy your life once more and can become more productive at work. Most people who pay for private treatment for depression will recoup the money they paid in a matter of months.

For more information on what is depression as well as treatment for it, call us here at Liberty House Clinic. We have a team of fully qualified counsellors and therapists with experience in helping patients to overcome depression. Our excellent success record speaks for itself. Our clinic is decorated to the highest standard and we are regulated by the Care Quality Commission. Please call today for more information about who we are and how we can help you or a loved one to beat depression once and for all.