“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.” (Stephen Fry)
Depression is common. Studies have shown up to 10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime. Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain with around 8% of people meeting the criteria for a clinical diagnosis. (NICE studies).
Many people have periods of time where they feel down, but when you are depressed this feeling can persist for weeks, months, and sometimes longer. A diagnosis of depression is usually made when a person experiences deeper and longer periods of low mood and unhappiness, and suffers a range of symptoms:
This list is not exhaustive and people can experience depression differently, both physically and psychologically.
In short, this is not a state of mind from which is it easy to simply 'pull yourself together', as people who have experienced this condition will know. A bad depressive episode can leave you house-bound and struggling with even basic activities.
The causes of depression are often complex and are likely to involve a range of social, psychological and biological factors. Difficult life events such as a bereavement, unemployment, suffering a trauma, relationship break downs, are all more likely to exacerbate or trigger a depressive episode. This can create a vicious cycle where the depression, including physical symptoms, lead to further stress and anxiety, sometimes with a sense of being without hope. Biological causes should not be under-estimated as a trigger of depression (for example, rapidly lowering testosterone level in males in their 30’s or post-natal hormonal impacts on women).
It is usual to recover from depression, but for some people it stays for longer or might return. It is a good idea to keep your doctor informed if you feel you are depressed, and anti-depressants may be prescribed (see my resources page for further information on anti-depressants). Talking therapy has been proven to be an effective treatment for depression and helps minimise the risks of the depression recurring. The NHS usually offers short courses of CBT, and this may help, but the wait time could be significant and lots of people opt to find a therapist in their area privately.
Accept that you are currently feeling this way. Focus on keeping good 'life-hygiene' through this difficult time.
There are a number of agencies (such as Mind) who have lots of information that may help. See resources page.
I chose the opening quote by Stephen Fry as it points to something that is hard to articulate and difficult to understand if you’ve not experienced it yourself. In equating depression to ‘the weather’, Fry touches upon the sense that the depression itself can feel like an overwhelming force that is beyond your control. A client once described it this way: as …a sense of having lost all power to improve your mood or outlook on life. A sense of being swamped by low mood - a thing with a mind of it's own, draining the world of colour.
When Fry equates depression to the weather, I can see what he means. We can’t control the weather next week any more than we can just snap out of a depression. Help is out there. Start today by seeing if there is one or more of the above tips you can try out.
Living with depression can be difficult, not only for sufferers, but also for those around them. If you are supporting someone through depression, it is very important to remember to take care of yourself too.