Depression is common. Symptoms can affect day-to-day life and can become very distressing. Treatments include psychological (talking) treatments and antidepressant medicines. Treatment takes time to work but has a good chance of success. Some people have recurring episodes of depression and require long-term treatment to keep symptoms away.
What is depression?
The word depressed is a common everyday word. People might say ‘I’m depressed” when they mean ‘I’m fed up because I’ve had a row, or failed an exam, or lost my job’, etc. These ups and downs of life are common and normal. Most people recover quite quickly. With true depression, you have a low mood and other symptoms each day for two weeks. Symptoms can also become severe enough to interfere with normal day-to-day activities.
Who gets depression?
About 1:2 adults have depression at some time in their life. Sometimes it is mild or lasts just a few weeks. However, an episode of depression serious enough to require treatment occurs in about 1:4 and 1:10 men at some point in their lives. Some people have two or more episodes of depression at various times in their life.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Many people know when they are depressed. However, some people do not realise when they are depressed. They may know they are not right and are not functioning well but do not know why. Some people think they have a physical illness – for example, if they lose weight. There is a set of symptoms, which are associated with depression and help to clarify the changes:
- Persistent sadness or low mood, with or without tearfulness.
- Marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities, even for activities you normally enjoy.
- Disturbed sleep compared with your usual pattern. This may be difficulty getting off to sleep or waking early, and being unable to get back to sleep. Sometimes it is sleeping too much.
- Change in appetite. This is often a poor appetite and weight loss. Sometimes the reverse happens with comfort eating and weight gain
- Fatigue (tiredness) or loss of energy
- Agitation or slowness of movements
- Poor concentration or indecisiveness. For example, you may find it difficult to read, work etc. Even simple tasks can seem difficult.
- Feeling of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
- Recurrent thoughts of death. This is not usually a fear of death, more a preoccupation with death and dying. For some people, despairing thoughts such as ‘life is not worth living’ or ‘I don’t care if I don’t wake up’ are common. Sometimes these thoughts progress into thoughts and even plans for suicide.
- Symptoms occur most of the time or on most days and have lasted two weeks or more.
- The symptoms are not due to a medication side effect or due to a drug or alcohol misuse or to a physical condition such as an under-active thyroid gland.