It’s estimated that 1 in 4 people in the UK suffers from a mental health problem. Depression is an extremely common condition. Life would be great without sadness or depression, but it’s just not possible. After all, we can’t appreciate true happiness if we never experience sadness.
Everyone experiences these emotions at some points in their life. They’re usually triggered by an unpleasant or disappointing situation, incident or experience. People are usually sad or depressed “about something”, and they are normal human emotions we need to process to make sense of the world. In recent times, there has been a huge spike in searches for ‘self isolation depression’, ‘coronavirus depression, and ‘lockdown depression’.
Though of course, depression in itself isn’t a recent thing. Sometimes we just wake up feeling a bit sad. This may be caused by hormones or stress, or we can easily create sadness if we visit a past or even future story that had, or might have a negative ending. Sometimes there may be no discernible reason for it at all. But for the most part, sadness is a phase. It’s not a permanent state. It can be distressing, and it can be lonely. It can also be, however, a peaceful state where we are often reflective and thoughtful. Here is an overview of depression.
The Mind And Body Are Connected
Remember, the mind and body are profoundly connected. If you want to change how you feel you can either change what you’re thinking — which will change your physiology. Or you can change your physiology (e.g., go for a walk, etc.) which will change your state of mind and your way of thinking.
When sadness doesn’t pass, and becomes deeper and seems more permanent, it’s likely to be depression. Depression used to be something no one talked about or admitted to. Having a mental health issue of any kind was hard enough to discuss with a doctor, never mind anyone else. For too long there was a stigma of failure or weakness attached to depression. Instead, people offered far too much unwanted and, frankly, stupid advice, such as “Buck up”.
Fortunately, times have changed and while dealing with mental health is still challenging, our approaches to and acceptance of mental health issues and depression have come a long way. Unlike anxiety, stress and sadness, long-term depression is not a “normal” state for us. Following a deeply traumatic life event or loss, even the most upbeat person might feel like it can be almost impossible to avoid depression, but the darkness does pass.
The good news is depression can be managed, and there are some wonderful doctors and therapists who can help you manage it. So how might you recognise it and how is it different from being just sad?
Here are some ways to recognise depression according to the mental health charity Mind:
- down, upset or tearful
- restless, agitated or irritable
- guilty, worthless and critical of yourself
- empty and numb
- isolated and unable to relate to other people
- finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
- a sense of unreality
- no self-confidence or self esteem
- hopelessness and despair
- avoiding social events and activities you usually enjoy
- self-harming or suicidal behaviour
- finding it difficult to speak or think clearly
- losing interest in sex
- difficulty in remembering or concentrating
- using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
- difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- feeling continually tired
- lacking appetite and losing weight, or overeating and gaining weight
- having physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
- moving very slowly, or being restless and agitated
Know When To Ask For Help
If you suffer from some or all these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are depressed. However, it’s always worth seeing your doctor and getting checked out.
I know this can be hard. I went through a phase of depression when my dad died, and I was also going through a divorce. I was at my all-time lowest point, and the very thought of having to go to the doctor felt like just another failure. However, I went and cried through the whole appointment. I still felt like a failure, but I also got help.
You have to be brave, know when to ask for help, and be willing to ask for it. It takes a little courage, but it’s always worth it. Recognising that you need help is crucial to your recovery. And let’s face it, if you had a physical injury or condition you wouldn’t hesitate in making an appointment with a health professional, so why should your approach to your “injured” feelings and mental health be any different than it is to your physical health?
Medication Isn’t Right For Everyone
Before turning to anti-depression medication, consider trying some of the strategies I discuss in my book and in this blog. They’re worth a try, and sometimes little shifts can make a big difference.
If they don’t make enough of a difference, then certainly explore medication with your doctor’s guidance. But be sure to approach it as a short-term solution to help you get back on an even keel.
Depression can be a heavy burden. My latest book, Your Life Your Way, offers insights that can help you gain perspective and move past it.