So, What Is Depression?

It’s Mental Health Monday again and this week I wanted to talk about something we hear a lot about but might not actually understand, depression. A very common mental health problem, depression can be a short-term illness or a lifelong condition. How we treat it and manage it varies from individual to individual but there are some common themes and pieces of information that everybody could benefit from.

The information in this article is for informational purposes only, and is not to be taken as medical advice. Any health concern or condition should be addressed by a doctor or other appropriate health care professional. The information and opinions found on this website are written based on the best data available at the time of writing, and are believed to be accurate according to the best discernment of the author.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Depression has both mental and physical traits, and a lot of us don’t seem to pay attention to the latter. Here are some of the most common signs of depression:

  • Feeling down, or even hopeless
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Tiredness or lethargy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Feeling like a failure or generally feeling bad about yourself
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Speaking or moving much slower than usual
  • Being very restless or fidgety
  • Having thoughts of harming yourself or not wanting to be here any more

If you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself, call Samaritans on 116 123 or you can text the Crisis text line on 85258. You can also speak to your GP but if it is out of hours you can call 111 (NHS Helpline) or in an emergency call 999 or attend A&E. The details of your local Mental Health Crisis team are easily found online, too.

A person does not have to experience every single one of these and there is no set amount of traits that ‘qualifies’ a person for depression. A clinical diagnosis is made when a person experiences the above traits for a period of two weeks or longer. As you can see, these are just as much physical as they are mental and they can contradict each other as well as complement one another. It is important that we can notice what is ‘normal’ for ourselves and when things might be slipping.

How does depression affect a person’s behaviour?

People with mental health difficulties get a very bad wrap. They are often labelled as ‘psychos’, and those with depression are unfortunately no different. A person with depression may well do the following:

  • Drop out of activities they used to enjoy
  • Withdraw from social events and speaking to friends
  • Call in sick to work
  • Snap at friends and family more easily
  • Isolate themselves at home or at work

It is easy to think that these behaviours mean that a person isn’t trying very hard, maybe they’re boring, or they thing they’re better off without their friends. If someone is calling in sick they can face disciplinary action. When a person snaps at you, it is easy to take offence and pull away from that person. Sometimes, these reactions are warranted. Other times they aren’t.

Depression can cause a person to lose enthusiasm and motivation. It can also cause a person to feel that they are no longer worthy or successful. They might see their low mood as a burden on friends and avoid them to prevent ‘bringing them down’. They might be so exhausted from lack of sleep or struggling to concentrate so much that they can’t do their job. If they are handling this all by themselves without talking to anybody, the slightest thing could be the last straw and lead to snapping and irritability.

So, what am I supposed to do?

If you think you might be experiencing depression yourself, or maybe a relapse from a previous episode, reach out for support. The first port of call might be your GP, who can refer you to a Talking Therapies service or prescribe anti-depressant medication. There are also many self-help resources online that can help you to understand and improve your mood.

If you think a friend or family member might be struggling, lend an ear. Sometimes just showing a person that you have the time and the heart to listen to their struggles can be incredibly powerful. Showing that you want to understand their difficulties and support them might empower them to reach out to professionals. Having an awareness of depression and the kinds of services out there can be really useful, so do some research! Most importantly, remember that a person’s mental health and struggles are not your personal responsibility. If things are ever getting too much for you, remember to care for yourself too!

Check out next week’s post to learn how you can help yourself!

Any questions or thoughts, let me know in the comments!

-L x

6 thoughts on “So, What Is Depression?

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