According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45,000 people in the United States committed suicide in 2014 alone, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death.
Social media has conditioned us to display only happy and shiny parts of our lives.
In our bid to keep up with Joneses we have learned to put up a brave and happy face despite how we are feeling inside.
It has resulted in a steep increase in the number of individuals who are high functioning and successful but suffer from crippling anxiety or severe depression in silence.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 18.6 per cent of Americans suffer from anxiety disorders and 6.7 per cent live with depression.
Depression is a serious illness and it is time we start to understand the nature of the illness and remove the stigma around mental health that causes many individuals to suffer in silence.
Depression is not just about feeling sad or lonely.
What separates depression from sadness is that the latter is about melancholy while depression persists.
A person suffering from depression struggles with overwhelming feelings of grief, hopelessness, worthlessness, and emptiness on daily basis.
The severity of these feelings can actually rob the person of the simple inertia to even perform day to day functions.
Depression can manifest in a myriad number of forms and can be triggered by several causes.
Identifying the types and symptoms of depression is the first step toward
1. Situational depression
Situational depression is caused when you have trouble dealing with a sudden or stressful event in your life like divorce, loss of a job or loved one or while changing careers or moving to a new country.
The psychologists may refer to this as “Stress Response syndrome” and they can help you in this transition phase through counselling and psychotherapy.
2. Major Depressive Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder is the most common form of depression.
If you feel any five or more of the below-mentioned symptoms over a persistent period of time lasting at least two weeks, you are likely suffering from Major Depressive Disorder:
Insomnia or oversleeping
The feeling of hopelessness or pessimism
Feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness
Feelings of irritability or restlessness
Overeating or loss of appetite
Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
Persistent feelings of emptiness and sadness
The severity of these symptoms will vary from person to person and in extreme cases, it can cripple your ability to work, sleep, study, eat or experience life in general.
This type of depression can be treated by a combination of psychotherapy or medications like Antidepressants.
People suffering from chronic illness or debilitating diseases often face depression or anxiety caused due to the emotional and physical distress of going through these diseases.
Talk therapy and medication can go a long way in treating illness-related depression.
4. Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression
Women who have major depression in the weeks and months after childbirth may have Peripartum (postpartum) depression.
This is different from normal baby blues.
Massive hormonal and physical changes and changes in lifestyle and responsibility can cause stress and depression for some mothers. Almost 10-15% of women experience postpartum depression.
This can be treated with counselling support and psychotherapy.
5. Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that happens in particular seasons like winters or monsoons.
It is believed that less sunlight can lead to a change in mood and irritability and therefore many people feel blue at the onset of winters or monsoons.
SAD can be treated with antidepressants or light therapy which requires you to sit in front of a special bright lightbox for about 15-30 minutes each day.
6. Trauma-based or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a mental disorder that can develop when a person experiences or witnesses traumatic events such as sexual assault, warfare, accident or other life-threatening situations.
Symptoms may include nightmares, anxiety or panic triggered by events that trigger the traumatic memory.
It can be cured by talk therapy, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications.
7. Substance-Induced Mood Disorder (SIMD)
SIMD is caused due to substance abuse. Certain drugs have the potential to gravely affect your mental health.
The adverse effects of these drugs can result in manic or chronic depression.
Rehab, medications and talk therapy can help all cure SIMD.
8. Psychotic Disorder
People with psychotic depression suffer from severe depression along with “psychotic” symptoms, such as:
Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
Delusions (false beliefs)
Paranoia (wrongly believing that others are trying to harm you)
It can be treated by a combination of talk therapy, antidepressants, and antipsychotic drugs.
If you notice any of these symptoms being experienced by many of your friends, family members or close ones, please reach out to them.
They may not even know they are suffering from depression or may not reach out due to feelings of guilt or shame or hopelessness.
Depression affects people of every age, economic situation, and race. Even though depression is common — especially in teens — some people get depressed but others don’t. Why?
There’s No One Reason for Depression
Lots of things influence whether a person gets depressed. Some of it is biology — things like our genes, brain chemistry, and hormones. Some are environment, including daylight and seasons, or social and family situations we face. And some is personality, like how we react to life events or the support systems we create for ourselves.
All these things can help shape whether or not a person becomes depressed.
Research shows that depression runs in families. Some people inherit genes that contribute to depression.
But not everyone who has a family member with depression will develop it too.
And many people with no family history of depression still get depressed.
So genes are one factor, but they aren’t the only reason for depression.
Chemicals called neurotransmitters (pronounced: nur-oh-TRANZ-mit-urs) help send messages between nerve cells in the brain. Some neurotransmitters regulate mood.
When a person is depressed, these neurotransmitters might be in low supply or not effective enough.
Genes and brain chemistry can be connected: Having the genes for depression may make a person more likely to have the neurotransmitter problem that is part of depression.
Stress, Health, and Hormones
Things like stress, using alcohol or drugs, and hormone changes also affect the brain’s delicate chemistry and mood.
Some health conditions may cause depression-like symptoms.
For example, hypothyroidism is known to cause a depressed mood in some people. Mono can drain a person’s energy.
When health conditions are diagnosed and treated by a doctor, the depression-like symptoms usually disappear.
Getting enough sleep and regular exercise often has a positive effect on neurotransmitter activity and mood.
Daylight and Seasons
Daylight affects how the brain produces melatonin and serotonin.
These neurotransmitters help regulate a person’s sleep-wake cycles, energy, and mood.
When there is less daylight, the brain produces more melatonin.
When there is more daylight, the brain makes more serotonin.
Shorter days and longer hours of darkness in fall and winter may lead the body to have more melatonin and less serotonin. This imbalance is what creates the conditions for depression in some people — a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Exposure to light can help improve the mood for people affected by SAD.
The death of a family member, friend, or pet sometimes goes beyond normal grief and leads to depression.
Other difficult life events — such as when parents divorce, separate, or remarry — can trigger depression.
Whether or not difficult life situations lead to depression can depend a lot on how well a person is able to cope,
stay positive, and receive support.
Family and Social Environment
For some people, a negative, stressful, or unhappy family atmosphere can lead to depression. Other high-stress living situations — such as poverty, homelessness, or violence — can contribute, too. Dealing with bullying, harassment, or peer pressure leaves some people feeling isolated, victimised, or insecure.
Situations like these don’t necessarily lead to depression, but facing them without relief or support can make it easier to become depressed.
Reacting to Life Situations
Life is full of ups and downs. Stress, hassles, and setbacks happen (but hopefully not too often).
How we react to life’s struggles matters a lot. A person’s outlook can contribute to depression — or it can help guard against it.
Research shows that a positive outlook acts as a protection against depression, even for people who have the genes, brain chemistry, or life situations that put them at risk for developing it.
The opposite is also true: People who tend to think more negatively may be more at risk for developing depression.
We can’t control our genes, brain chemistry, or some of the other things that contribute to depression.
But we do have control over how we see situations and how we cope.
Making an effort to think positively — like believing there’s a way around any problem — helps ward off depression. So does developing coping skills and a support system of positive relationships.
These things help build resilience (the quality that helps people bounce back and do well, even in difficult situations).
Here are three ways to build resilience:
Try thinking of change as a challenging and normal part of life. When a problem crops up, take action to solve it.
Remind yourself that setbacks and problems are temporary and solvable. Nothing lasts forever.
Build a support system. Ask friends and family for help (or just a shoulder to cry on) when you need it.
Offer to help when they need it. This kind of give and take creates strong relationships that help people weather life’s storms.
Being positive and resilient isn’t a magic shield that automatically protects us from depression.
But these qualities can help offset the other factors that might lead to trouble.
if you are going through Depression, it’s best to get help from a therapist.
To get the most from your therapy, you can do things to help yourself, too.
Here are five things you can do to feel better.
They may seem simple, but they can help a lot.
Exercise. Take a 15- to 30-minute brisk walk every day. Or you can dance, stretch, or do yoga. People who are depressed may not feel much like being active. But get yourself to do it anyway. If you need a push, ask a friend to do it with you. Getting any activity started helps boost your mood. Keep it going.
Eat healthy foods. Some people with depression don’t feel much like eating. Some may overeat. But what you eat can affect your mood and energy. So with depression, you need to be sure to eat right. For most people, that means plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit simple carbs and foods with added sugar.
Don’t go for too long without eating. Even if you don’t feel hungry, eat something light and healthy.
Don’t dwell on problems. It can feel good to talk through a problem with a caring friend. But depression can lead people to complain, blame, and rehash problems too much. It can keep you focused on what’s wrong.
It’s OK to air your thoughts and feelings with people who care. But don’t let problems be all you talk about.
Talk about good things too. This can help your mood become more positive.
Express yourself. With depression, your creativity and sense of fun may seem blocked.
But it can help to do things that get your creative juices flowing. Paint, draw, or doodle. Sew, cook, or bake. Write, dance, or compose music.
Chat with a friend or play with a pet. Find something to laugh about.
Watch a funny movie. Do things you can enjoy. Even a little. That helps turn depression around.
Notice good things. Depression affects a person’s view of things.
Things can seem dismal, negative, and hopeless.
To shift your view, make it a goal to notice 3 good things in every day.
The more you notice what’s good, the more good you will notice.
Most of all, if you’re going through depression, show yourself some compassion and kindness.
When you’re going through a hard time, it helps to know you’re not alone.
Lots of men struggle with depression throughout their lives and it can impact on them in many ways. However, some men may struggle to talk about their feelings or reach out for help, which can mean their depression gets worse over time. This may be because they believe that depression is a sign of weakness, or that they should simply ‘man up’, which can lead to some men trying to downplay how they’re feeling or cover it up. However, this isn’t the case – depression is a common mental illness, for which help is available.
Feeling hopeless, worthless and struggling with intense sadness are all common symptoms of depression. However, it’s important to realise that depression in men is treatable, and it’s possible for you to get better and start living life to the full again.
At Priory, we can help you overcome your symptoms, address the causes and triggers for your problems, and take steps towards recovery.
What is depression?
Depression is a Mental Health Condition that causes people to experience intense and persistent feelings of sadness and despair. It’s entirely normal for us all to feel ‘down’ or upset from time-to-time. However, if you find that this is becoming difficult to cope with and is preventing you from functioning in your daily life, it may be that you’re suffering with depression.
How does depression in men differ from depression in women?
Lots of men and women experience the same features of depression. However, depression in men can differ in a number of key ways, when compared to depression in women. These differences are outlined in more detail later on this page. They include:
Incidence of depression in men – depression is less common in men than in women, with statistics suggesting that men are 50% less likely to be diagnosed with depression when compared to women. However, instead of this reflecting a true picture of how men are really feeling, it could be because of a number of different factors, such as:
Men may be less likely to seek help if they’re feeling depressed, which means they don’t get the diagnosis and help they need
Men may be less likely to want to talk about how they’re feeling, either with loved ones or their GP
Men may be more likely to downplay their symptoms or brush them off as being unimportant
Depression in men may be harder to diagnose because they display a much broader range of symptoms than women, with many of these symptoms being physical
Symptoms of depression in men – there are lots of depression symptoms that can arise in both men and women, but there are some specific signs of depression in men to be aware of.
As mentioned above, men are more likely than women to display physical signs of depression such as headaches and tiredness, among others
Causes of depression in men – again, both men and women are susceptible to certain causes of depression. However, some influences may be more likely to affect men than women, leading to depression in men
Signs and symptoms of depression in men
There are lots of symptoms of depression, which can affect anyone of any gender. Some of the most common depression symptoms to look out for include:
Overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness
Feeling angry and irritable
Finding it hard to make decisions
Being unable to concentrate
Becoming uninterested in hobbies and activities that you used to enjoy
Not wanting to spend time with your family and friends
Feeling tired all the time
Sleep problems – either not being able to get to sleep at night, or finding that you’re sleeping more than usual and struggling to get out of bed in the morning
Appetite changes – finding that you eat more or less than usual, causing changes in your weight
Unexplained physical problems such as aches, pains and digestive problems
Becoming less interested in sex and experiencing sexual problems
Finding that you’re unable to manage simple day-to-day tasks and feeling as though you can’t function
However, some depression symptoms are more likely to be experienced by men than women. Depression symptoms in men can include:
Experience the physical symptoms of depression e.g. headaches, stomach aches and unexplained digestive problems
Experience anger and agitation
Demonstrate reckless behaviours such as dangerous driving
Lose interest in their family or hobbies
Work obsessively – this can often be used as a way of escaping their negative feelings
Become controlling or abusive in relationships
Have difficulty sleeping
Feel tired and irritable all the time
It’s also important to note that men are up to four times more likely to complete suicide as a result of their depression, when compared to women.
Causes of depression in men
Depression can be caused by lots of different things, and many of these are common across both men and women. Potential causes of depression include:
Going through difficult life events such as divorce, losing your job or a bereavement
Having a family history of depression or other mental health problems
Having a personal history of other mental health problems
Being the victim of abuse or neglect, especially if this happened during the early years of life
Having certain personality traits such as being overly self-critical or having low self-esteem
Struggling with serious physical health problems such as cancer
While anyone can suffer with depression, there are some risk factors that can make a man more vulnerable to struggling with depression. These can include:
Experiencing sexual dysfunction. Men who struggle with sexual dysfunction, including erectile problems, are more likely to develop depression than women, or other men who don’t have sexual dysfunction problems.
A factor which can make this more complicated is the fact that sexual dysfunction can be a side effect of some antidepressant medication.
This means that men who have already received a diagnosis of depression and are receiving treatment (whether this is linked to sexual dysfunction problems or not) may end up feeling worse if they go on to experience sexual dysfunction as a side effect of their medication. This can lead to what can feel like a vicious circle for some men
Men are more likely than women to develop depression as a result of experiencing loneliness or having a lack of social support. This can especially affect older men, if they are living alone and ageing in isolation
Men are more likely than women to become depressed if they have a history of alcohol or drug abuse
Types of depression in men
There are six main types of depression that can affect both men and women. These include:
Severe depression with psychotic symptoms
Recurrent depressive disorder
While postnatal depression (PND) is typically thought of as only affecting women, it’s also possible for men to struggle with this type of depression following the birth of a child. This is known as paternal postnatal depression (PPND).
How to help a man with depression
If you’re worried that a man you know or care for is showing signs of depression, there are a number of things you can do to support him. For more detailed information on the types of things you can do to help, you can read our dedicated page: how to help someone with depression.
In summary, you can:
Learn as much as you can about depression and the symptoms to look out for. It’s especially useful to learn about the symptoms of depression in men
Try to have a conversation with your loved one about his depression, when you can speak openly and honestly about how he’s feeling. Make sure that you:
Listen to what he has to say
Encourage him to confide in you how he’s feeling
Avoid being critical, judgemental or making assumptions
Let him know that depression is an illness, not a sign of weakness
Talk to him if you notice his behaviour has changed e.g. if he doesn’t seem to be interested in hobbies anymore. However, make sure the focus is on you rather than him, so he doesn’t become defensive e.g. you could say “I’m worried about your behaviour”, “I wanted to know if there’s anything I can do to help”
Be there for him as much as you can and let him know that he can always rely on you for help and support
Encourage him to seek help for his depression. You could offer to call his GP on his behalf to make an appointment and then go along with him as moral support
Encourage him to keep doing things that make him happy e.g. meeting friends for a game of tennis
Make sure you look after yourself as well as your loved one, to make sure you have the resources and the emotional energy to support him
Lastly, it’s so important to take any remarks about suicide seriously. You may also wish to remove or lock away anything your loved one could use to take his own life e.g. knives, medication stockpiles. If you’re worried about your loved one’s immediate safety then call 999
As well as the above, you could also encourage and help your loved one to keep track of his symptoms in terms of what they are, when they occur and whether there are any particular triggers.
Does he feel depressed at certain times of the day such as when he wakes up in the morning?
Does he feel more depressed when he’s on his own as opposed to when he’s with other people?
Does he feel more depressed when he’s particularly stressed or tired?
By understanding these patterns and helping your loved one to spot them too, you’ll be better able to support your male relative or friend with his difficult emotions and learn to recognise when he’s going through a particularly hard time.
Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It gets in the way of everyday life, causing tremendous pain, hurting not just those suffering from it but also impacting everyone around them.
If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of difficult emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. These feelings are all normal. It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s depression. And if you neglect your own health, it can become overwhelming.
That said, your companionship and support can be crucial to your loved one’s recovery. You can help them to cope with depression symptoms, overcome negative thoughts, and regain their energy, optimism, and enjoyment of life. Start by learning all you can about depression and how to best talk about it with your friend or family member. But as you reach out, don’t forget to look after your own emotional health—you’ll need it to provide the full support your loved one needs.
Depression is a serious condition. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a person’s energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one can’t just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will.
The symptoms of depression aren’t personal. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone, even the people they love the most. It’s also common for depressed people to say hurtful things and lash out in anger. Remember that this is the depression talking, not your loved one, so try not to take it personally.
Hiding the problem won’t make it go away. It doesn’t help anyone involved if you try making excuses, covering up the problem, or lying for a friend or family member who is depressed. In fact, this may keep the depressed person from seeking treatment.
Your loved one isn’t lazy or unmotivated. When you’re suffering from depression, just thinking about doing the things that may help you to feel better can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action. Have patience as you encourage your loved one to take the first small steps to recovery.
You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. As much as you may want to, you can’t rescue someone from depression nor fix the problem for them. You’re not to blame for your loved one’s depression or responsible for their happiness (or lack thereof). While you can offer love and support, ultimately recovery is in the hands of the depressed person.
Recognising depression symptoms in a loved one
Family and friends are often the first line of defense in the fight against depression. That’s why it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. You may notice the problem in a depressed loved one before they do, and your influence and concern can motivate them to seek help.
Be concerned if your loved one:
Doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore. Has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities. Has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.
Expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life. Is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody; talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless.”
Frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain. Or complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.
Sleeps less than usual or oversleeps. Has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganised, and “out of it.”
Eats more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.
Drinks more or abuses drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers, as a way to self-medicate how they’re feeling.
How to talk to someone about depression
Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to someone about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries the person will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.
If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don’t have to try to “fix” your friend or family member; you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Encourage the depressed person to talk about their feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment.
Don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.
Starting the conversation
Finding a way to start a conversation about depression with your loved one is always the hardest part. You could try saying:
“I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
“Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
“I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.”
Once you’re talking, you can ask questions such as:
“When did you begin feeling like this?”
“Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
“How can I best support you right now?”
“Have you thought about getting help?”
Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that they will understand and can respond to while in a depressed state of mind.
Tips for Talking about Depression
What you CAN say that helps:
“You’re not alone. I’m here for you during this tough time.”“It may be hard to believe right now, but the way you’re feeling will change.”“Please tell me what I can do now to help you.”“Even if I’m not able to understand exactly how you feel, I care about you and want to help.”“You’re important to me. Your life is important to me.”“When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, or minute—whatever you can manage.”
What you should AVOID saying:
“This is all in your head”“Everyone goes through tough times.”“Try to look on the bright side.”
“Why do you want to die when you have so much to live for?”
“I can’t do anything about your situation.”
“Just snap out of it.”
“You should be feeling better by now.”
It may be hard to believe that the person you know and love would ever consider something as drastic as suicide, but a depressed person may not see any other way out. Depression clouds judgment and distorts thinking, causing a normally rational person to believe that death is the only way to end the pain they’re feeling.
Since suicide is a very real danger when someone is depressed, it’s important to know the warning signs:
Talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself; a preoccupation with death
Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate
Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways
Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye
Seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects
If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, don’t wait, talk to them about your concerns. Many people feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic but it is one of the best things you can do for someone who is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a person’s life, so speak up if you’re concerned and seek professional help immediately!
Encouraging the person to get help
While you can’t control someone else’s recovery from depression, you can start by encouraging the depressed person to seek help. Getting a depressed person into treatment can be difficult. Depression saps energy and motivation, so even the act of making an appointment or finding a doctor can seem daunting to your loved one. Depression also involves negative ways of thinking. The depressed person may believe that the situation is hopeless and treatment pointless.
Because of these obstacles, getting your loved one to admit to the problem—and helping them see that it can be solved—is an essential step in depression recovery.
If your friend or family member resists getting help:
Suggest a general check-up with a physician. Your loved one may be less anxious about seeing a family doctor than a mental health professional. A regular doctor’s visit is actually a great option, since the doctor can rule out medical causes of depression. If the doctor diagnoses depression, they can refer your loved one to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, this “professional” opinion makes all the difference.
Offer to help the depressed person find a doctor or therapist and go with them on the first visit. Finding the right treatment provider can be difficult, and is often a trial-and-error process. For a depressed person already low on energy, it is a huge help to have assistance making calls and looking into the options.
Encourage your loved one to make a thorough list of symptoms and ailments to discuss with the doctor. You can even bring up things that you have noticed as an outside observer, such as, “You seem to feel much worse in the mornings,” or “You always get stomach pains before work.”
Taking care of yourself
There’s a natural impulse to want to fix the problems of people we care about, but you can’t control someone else’s depression. You can, however, control how well you take care of yourself. It’s just as important for you to stay healthy as it is for the depressed person to get treatment, so make your own well-being a priority.
Remember the advice of airline flight attendants: put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. In other words, make sure your own health and happiness are solid before you try to help someone who is depressed. You won’t do your friend or family member any good if you collapse under the pressure of trying to help. When your own needs are taken care of, you’ll have the energy you need to lend a helping hand.
Speak up for yourself. You may be hesitant to speak out when the depressed person in your life upsets you or lets you down. However, honest communication will actually help the relationship in the long run. If you’re suffering in silence and letting resentment build, your loved one will pick up on these negative emotions and feel even worse. Gently talk about how you’re feeling before pent-up emotions make it too hard to communicate with sensitivity.
Set boundaries. Of course you want to help, but you can only do so much. Your own health will suffer if you let your life be controlled by your loved one’s depression. You can’t be a caretaker round the clock without paying a psychological price. To avoid burnout and resentment, set clear limits on what you are willing and able to do. You are not your loved one’s therapist, so don’t take on
Stay on track with your own life. While some changes in your daily routine may be unavoidable while caring for your friend or relative, do your best to keep appointments and plans with friends. If your depressed loved one is unable to go on an outing or trip you had planned, ask a friend to join you instead.
Seek support. You are NOT betraying your depressed relative or friend by turning to others for support. Joining a support group, talking to a counselor or clergyman, or confiding in a trusted friend will help you get through this tough time. You don’t need to go into detail about your loved one’s depression or betray confidences; instead focus on your emotions and what you are feeling. Make sure you can be totally honest with the person you turn to—choose someone who will listen without interruption and without judging you.
If you have suffered from depression, then you probably have heard all sorts of comments coming from others, and sometimes even doctors, about its origins. For them, and sometimes for us, it is oftenall in our head, because of a very specific event, or just a general situation that we do not feel at ease with. Even though these factors, along with many others, play an important role in the triggering of a depression, studies are starting to show that our genes could be playing their part as well.
Recent studies have shown that, among people whose parents experienced severe depression, the incidence of people experiencing symptoms of severe depression themselves goes up to 9%, against a 3% incidence observed among the general population. The probability is even higher if the parent went through a depressive episode before the age of 16. Similarly, monozygotic twins (twins sharing 100% of their DNA) were 40% to both experience depression, against only 10% for dizigotic twins (twins sharing 50% of their DNA).
Genomics have found out that although several genes are involved in the creation of a breeding ground for depression, the main culprit may be found in the gene 5-HTTLPR. This gene is involved in transportation of serotonin in the brain. However, over the years, research has taken a step forward just to take two steps back many times, as it identified several genes involved with depression in a first study, but then found itself incapable of reaching the same findings again with a different panel of people.
Evenmore disappointing, when a team of 80 international scientists examined more than 2.4 million DNA variations provided by 34,549 people, they were not able to identify a single one that could be associated with depression.
Still, scientists remain optimistic that the answer will come out in the near future, and that the exact role of the DNA in depression will be clearly identified. Some of them believe that to achieve so, they would need to look at much bigger samples of the population, which is obviously a challenge. This would potentially greatly help people suffering from this affection, as it would open the door to the development of new forms of medical treatment.
Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more-severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn’t the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder.
To diagnose clinical depression, many doctors use the symptom criteria for major depressive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Signs and symptoms of clinical depression may include:
Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Symptoms are usually severe enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships with others or in day-to-day activities, such as work, school or social activities.
Clinical depression can affect people of any age, including children. However, clinical depression symptoms, even if severe, usually improve with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two.
We all feel down from time to time. But when these feelings persist over a longer period of time, it could be a sign of depression.
The best way to identify if you have depression is to speak to a therapist or GP. However, for the time being, we wanted to use this article to outline some of the key symptoms to look out for when understanding feelings of low mood and the severity of these.
Let’s start by covering some of the symptoms of depression before we move on to identify the impact it may have on you.
With depression, it’s common to feel low in mood, have reduced energy and have low motivation to take part in activities. Your enjoyment, interest and concentration levels can diminish, and even very low-impact activity can bring on feelings of tiredness.
Other symptoms include:
Significantly altered appetite
Thoughts of worthlessness
These are just some of the symptoms associated with depression – now how do we determine if a depressive episode is mild, moderate or severe?
Well, a mild depressive episode will typically involve two or three of the earlier symptoms. Though you will feel distressed, you’ll largely be ok to carry on with many of your everyday activities despite the low mood.
A moderate depressive episode is when four or more of the earlier symptoms are present and are causing disruption in your ability to carry on with life as normal.
A severe depressive episode is when several of the earlier symptoms are present and can feel distressing. Self-esteem is likely lost and there are also feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
It’s also not uncommon for this level of depression to cause suicidal thoughts or acts of self-harm.
We have been talking about specifically depressive episodes, but recurrent depression is when someone experiences repeated bouts of depression. This in itself can be categorised differently.
Postpartum Depression (also known as Postnatal Depression) is a type of depression that can affect women after they have given birth; this type of depression is common and affects more than one in ten women within a year of giving birth. Mothers with Postpartum Depression may experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion that may make it difficult to live day-to-day life.
Pregnancy for many people is a wonderful and exciting experience, however, for many parents, it is a time of worry and exhaustion. Women who experience Postpartum Depression may find difficulties coming to terms with how they are feeling and can find it very difficult to discuss their feelings with others for many reasons.
For example, because people associate having a child with happiness and fulfilment, those suffering from Postpartum Depression may feel pressure to be happy and may feel ashamed of their depression.
Many symptoms of Postpartum Depression can have a negative effect on the mother, baby and the family and therefore, those who experience Postpartum Depression must seek help as soon as possible. If untreated, the depression can continue to grow and worsen with time.
What are the symptoms?
There are many symptoms that women with Postpartum depression may experience; common symptoms include:
Persistent and intense feelings of sadness
Feeling empty, hopeless and overwhelmed
Crying more than often for no apparent reason
Feeling moody, irritable or restless
Oversleeping or exhaustion
Having difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering details
Suffering from physical aches and pains, including headaches, stomach problems and muscle pain
Over eating (comfort eating) or under eating (loss of appetite)
Having trouble bonding or forming emotion attachment to the baby
Doubting ability to be a parent
Thinking about self-harm
Thinking about harming the baby
Lack of enjoyment and loss of interests
Withdrawing contact from other people
Feeling guilt and self-blame
Signs for others to look for
Because of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression, mothers may feel reluctance in sharing how they feel, this can include sharing with the father or other family members or friends. Here are some signs for partners, family and friends to look out for in new parents:
frequently crying for no obvious reason
having difficulty bonding with their baby, looking after them only as a duty and not wanting to play with them
withdrawing from contact with other people
speaking negatively all the time and claiming that they’re hopeless
neglecting themselves, such as not washing or changing their clothes
losing all sense of time, such as being unaware whether 10 minutes or two hours have passed
losing their sense of humour
constantly worrying that something is wrong with their baby, regardless of reassurance
Causes of Postpartum Depression
It is unclear as to what exactly causes the depression, however, it is believed to result from a combination of physical and emotional factors. It is important to remember that Postpartum Depression does not occur because of something the mother did or did not do.
Physical factors refer to the levels of hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, in the women’s body. After childbirth, these hormones quickly drop which leads to chemical changes in the brain that may trigger mood swings. Another contributing factor is that new parents will suffer from sleep deprivation, leading to exhaustion, discomfort, irritability, and confusion, which may intensify their sadness from not having the energy to cope.
Postpartum Depression can also be influenced by pre-existing mental health issues. For example, if a mother already has issues with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, then having a baby and having the hormonal changes can intensify negative feelings and make it harder to overcome them.
There are social and emotional factors that can also affect Postpartum Depression such as not having a good support network or a relationship with the father; lack of support puts more pressure on the mother, increasing stress, anxiety and fatigue. Additionally, if the mother has experienced recent stressful life events, such as bereavement or illness, then it can add to any pressures they are experiencing regarding their child.
Even if the new mother does not have existing mental health issues or social and emotional issues in their life, having a baby is a life-changing experience. Looking after a small child is a stressful job and will cause exhaustion regardless, it also changes how people live their lives and see the world around them. It may be that the new mother is focussing on everything she must give up or change, it may be that they are concerned with their financial situation or it may be simply that they do not feel ready or prepared for looking after a baby.
Any of these reasons may have contributed to the depression, however, other reasons may have led to it that may be specific to the individual.
Myths about Postpartum Depression
postpartum depression is often misunderstood, and people often make incorrect assumptions about it, which may make the sufferer feel worse.
One myth is that Postpartum Depression is not as severe as other types of depression, this is incorrect as it is just as severe as any other type of depression. Like other forms, if untreated, can have long-lasting and damaging effects on the mother, child and the family that will progressively get worse and more difficult to deal with.
Another is that Postpartum Depression is entirely caused by hormonal changes, however, as discussed in the ‘causes’ section, this is untrue, and it is usually influenced by many factors.
Further, Postpartum Depression is sometimes confused with the ‘baby blues, which is a temporary mood change after giving birth. However, Postpartum Depression is or can be an ongoing mental health issue that may persist into a long-term problem if left untreated.
Although this article has only discussed Postpartum Depression in women, it is not only women that are affected by it. Research has actually found that up to 1 in 25 new fathers become depressed after having a baby, and although this may not necessarily be caused by hormonal changes, social and emotional changes may prompt depression in new fathers as well.
How to help
It is important for those suffering from depression to talk to others about it, this can be done by accessing counselling services, which provides people with professional advice, education about the depression and can guide people through techniques on how to cope with the depression. Peer support groups are another type of talking therapy that can be a valuable experience. Peer support groups allow people to share their experiences of what has and has not worked for them and make suggestions of things that other people can try. This may be particularly beneficial for those who may struggle to talk about their feeling with people they are close to and can reduce feelings of isolation.
However, having a good support network of people that they are close to, such as family and friends, is also beneficial. By discussing fears and emotions with other people close to the sufferer can prompt them to offer help and support, which will reduce feelings of isolation.
New parents must suffer from Postpartum Depression:
Make time for themselves to do things they enjoy and find relaxing
Rest while they can and try to follow good sleeping habits
Exercise, which has proven to increase moods in people with depression
Eat regularly and healthily
Limit alcohol consumption and do not take drugs, as they can worsen mood
Talk to partners, family and friends
Do not try to be a ‘supermother’ – accept help from others when it is offered
Seek help from counselling services and talking therapies
If unable to cope, enquire about medications such as antidepressants
If someone who has previously experienced Postpartum Depression becomes pregnant again, they are at an increased risk of going through that again – but it does not mean that they definitely will. When people who have had Postpartum Depression in the past find out they are pregnant again, it may be that their anxiety is increased straight away due to memories of a previous time, or it may be that they feel more confident about spotting symptoms and how to look after themselves.
People who are experiencing Postpartum Depression must seek help, either from close relationships or from professionals, as soon as symptoms appear to minimise the risk of the disorder becoming chronic.
Depression… just eats you up from the inside out. It’s like a monster inside your head that takes over. The worst thing is to know that my family and friends were doing all they could yet I still felt so lonely. Anything that was said to me, I managed to turn into a bad thing. I was literally my own worst enemy.
I would come home and feel so exhausted from all of the voices in my head that I would just sleep to block it all out. I didn’t want to wake up because living was a nightmare. I felt sick with the fear of nighttime because that’s when the voices got even louder. I would get so frustrated because it seemed impossible to sleep as if insomnia and depression go hand in hand.
I knew I needed help but asking for it just made me feel like a burden. I wanted to be free of meds, doctors, counsellors, hospitals and negative thoughts. I felt as if I had lost myself and wouldn’t ever be the same again. I had no motivation to do anything because I couldn’t see a future for myself.
Anxiety caused me to believe everyone was faking their love for me. ‘Cheer up’ was the worst thing anyone said to me. Those two words triggered thousands of horrible thoughts and I was beating myself up for not hiding how I felt well enough from everyone around me.
I wanted everyone to know how I felt but I didn’t dare tell them. Eventually, I just isolated myself in my room because no contact with people meant nothing could go wrong, surely?
At the moment I rely on medication and I am grateful to have it because I know it has really helped me. At the same time, I balance the wish that I could be free of it with the fear that it might lead to a relapse.
The scariest thing about my whole recovery process is that the only person who can truly help me is me. I have learnt to change my thought processes and stop bullying myself, it’s a habit that’s been hard to break but I know I’ve made some positive changes.
2013 was a rollercoaster ride and admittedly one with more lows than highs. I feel I have been to hell and back but would I change what I have been through? If I was to be totally honest I don’t think I would.
That doesn’t mean that depression is a good thing because it definitely isn’t, but I believe you must turn your negative experiences into positive ones if you can.
If I hadn’t been through these things I wouldn’t have learnt that the most important thing in life is to be happy. I have now received all of my university offers to study football business and I can now see a future. I hope to build a career in something that I love, something that will make ME happy, not focusing on what others want from me.
If I was to give one piece of advice to others who are struggling, it would be not to
suffer in silence. There are people out there who have been through everything that you are experiencing and have come out on the other side. In fact, their experiences have made them who they are today. It may seem impossible to overcome but believe me, you will get there.
You shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling the way you do because depression is an illness like any other, it isn’t any more self-centred than having a broken leg. I was always told to show myself the same respect and concern that I would show for others. We are so accepting of other parts of our bodies breaking, why can’t we be that way about our minds too?
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The 8 Types Of Depression (And The Best Way To Handle Each)