Depression is a mood disorder where a person experiences low mood, loss of interest, feelings of guilt, low energy, poor concentration, hopelessness and feelings of sadness. Depression is a persistent problem which lasts on average 6 to 8 months.
There are many symptoms of depression which include:-
- continuous low mood or sadness
- feeling hopeless and helpless
- having low self-esteem
- feeling tearful
- feeling guilt-ridden
- feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- having no motivation or interest in things
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- not getting any enjoyment out of life
- feeling anxious or worried
- having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming oneself
- moving or speaking slower than usual
- changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
- unexplained aches and pains
- lack of energy
- low sex drive
- changes to menstrual cycle
- disturbed sleep, e.g. finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning
- avoiding contact with friends and family
Possible causes of depression
- Genetic/family history – If someone in the person’s family such as a parent or sibling suffered from depression, it is likely that the person may also experience depression.
- Hormones-Another possible cause of depression is hormones which are the chemical messages that contribute to mood.
- Illness- Depression is common in a person who has a life-threatening illness, e.g. cancer.
- Bipolar disorder – A person with bipolar disorder has extreme mood swings. There are periods of mania where the person is hyper and overly excited and appears to have boundless energy. On other occasions, a person can have experience long periods of being depressed.
- Lifestyle -Some foods can negatively affect mood, e.g. soda, bagels, packaged meats, potato chips, canned food, baked goods and coffee. Exercise improves mood stability and releases endorphins so a lack of exercise would achieve the opposite. Alcohol is a depressant and excessive consumption is linked to depression and can make depression worse. Cannabis can bring about depression.
- Environmental/social – People who live in difficult social and economic circumstances are more likely to be depressed. So too are those who had negative childhood experiences. Those who are estranged from their families can also be at higher risk of depression.
- Biochemical – The chemicals in the brain that regulate mood can become imbalanced leading to depression.
- Medication – Some drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers or reserpine, can increase your risk of depression.
If a person experiences symptoms for the majority of the day, every day for more than two weeks they should see a doctor.
There are several types of depression including mild, moderate and severe. The type of help a person would receive depends on the type of depression they have.
Mild depression may improve on its own.
Exercise can help with mild depression and increase energy levels. Exercise releases endorphins, the feel good hormones. Physical activity can also improve a person’s appetite and quality of sleep.
Talking about feelings can be helpful. A person can talk to a friend or relative or attend a self-help group. The doctor may recommend self-help books.
If mild to moderate depression isn’t improving the doctor may recommend a talking treatment.
Antidepressants can treat the symptoms of depression. There are almost 30 different types of antidepressants. They have to be prescribed by a doctor, usually for depression that is moderate or severe.
Combination therapy:- A course of antidepressants plus talking therapy, particularly if the depression is severe. A combination of an antidepressant and CBT usually works better than having just one of these treatments.
For severe depression, it is advisable to see a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) aims to help a depressed person understand their thoughts and behaviour and how these affect them. CBT recognises that past events in a person’s past may have shaped them but concentrates mostly on how a person changes the way they think, feel and behave in the present. CBT teaches an individual how to overcome negative thoughts, e.g. being able to challenge hopeless feelings.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on the depressed person’s relationships with others and on problems they may be experiencing in their relationships.
In psychodynamic (psychoanalytic) psychotherapy, a psychoanalytic therapist will encourage a person to say whatever is going through their mind. This helps the person become aware of hidden meanings or patterns in what they do or say that may be contributing to their problems.
Counselling is a form of therapy that helps a person think about the problems they are experiencing in life so they can find new ways of dealing with them. Counsellors support a person in identifying solutions to problems. Counselling is ideal for people who are generally healthy but need help coping with a current crisis such as anger, relationship issues, bereavement, redundancy, infertility or a serious illness.
Depression can happen to anyone and it’s important to get help as soon as possible.
Ms. Jolene King has over 15 years business management and HR international experience gained in the UK, USA and Barbados. She holds a MA degree in Human Resource Management from University of Derby, a MSc. degree in Industrial/Organisational Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology and a BSc. degree in Sociology with Psychology from University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. Ms. King is an active committee member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Northamptonshire branch and is an Associate member of the Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology (SIOP).