Definition – severe, typically prolonged, feelings of despondency and dejection.
What Actually Is Depression?
We have all felt sad. We may even call that sadness “feeling depressed”. However, this sad sensation usually passes after a while.
Depression is a medical illness that causes a constant feeling of sadness and lack of interest.
It affects how the person feels, behaves and thinks which completely interferes with their daily life. Those who suffer cannot function normally to such an extent that both they and those who care about them are affected by it.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Depression isn’t just a mental disorder, it can also affect a person physically. These physical symptoms are not in the person’s head either, they are real.
- Headaches become worse if you’re depressed.
- Muscle aches and joint pain. Depression can make any kind of pain worse.
- Digestive problems. You might feel queasy or nauseous. You might have diarrhoea or become chronically constipated.
- Exhaustion and fatigue. No matter how much you sleep, you may still feel tired or worn out. Getting out of the bed in the morning may seem very hard, even impossible.
- Sleeping problems. Change in appetite or weight.
- Dizziness or light-headedness.
So, How Does This All Feel?
I have heard and read many descriptions of how depression actually feels for someone who suffers with it.
Some say it is like being paralyzed on the inside. Like wanting to climb out of a well, you can see the light but you can’t reach it. There is no hope.
Everything is in slow motion, their thoughts, movements and everything around them.
There is a wall between you and the rest of the world. You can’t express yourself properly, most people irritate you or make you anxious and you are convinced something bad is going to happen.
Even on sunny days, it is always cloudy and grey. You want to stay in bed forever. You don’t care what you look like. You don’t trust anyone. You feel incredibly alone in your pain.
The scary part? Some people feel addicted to all of this. When it’s not crippling it is comfortable and safe.
The biological causes of depression are still not completely understood.
- Genetics – Depression can run in families and some people are at an increased genetic risk. However, this does not mean that you will automatically experience depression if your parent or close relative has the illness. Other factors are still likely to have an important influence.
- Brain – Evidence suggests depression may be related to changes in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, particularly serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These are the three main chemicals related to mood and motivation that carry messages within the brain. Changes to stress hormone levels have also been found in people with depression. Furthermore, long-term stress may cause changes in brain chemistry that can lead to depression.
- Personality – certain personalities are more susceptible to experiencing depression. For example those who tend to get nervous easily, have low self-esteem and confidence and are self-critical and negative.
Celebrities With Depression
Depression is more common than you may think.
- Demi Lovato (singer) has been in the headlines for her mental health issues and tendencies to self-harm.
- Owen Wilson (actor) also went through a period of severe depression and attempted suicide. He said his friends and family helped him through the dark period.
- Gwyneth Paltrow (actress) said she suffered from post-partum depression after giving birth to her second child, Moses.
- Buzz Aldrin, known as the second man to ever walk on the moon, has suffered from depression and alcoholism for years.
- J K Rowling (author) has said writing the first Harry Potter book was her personal cure for her depression.
- Winona Ryder (actress) was admitted to hospital for severe depression when she was 19.
What You Can Do
If you are suffering with this illness –
- Turn to friends and family, only the one’s you trust wholeheartedly. You need as much support as possible as not many can fight this on their own. Talk to as many people as possible. Arrange a coffee with a friend once a week.
- Try and make a routine. Get out of the bed in the morning. Don’t cancel social activities. Keep busy. Start with very small daily goals, and then try to branch out.
- Go for a walk with a friend or your dog. Take the stairs rather than the lift. Anything to get the heart rate going.
- Eat healthily. Reducing your intake of food can further affect your mood and brain. Focus on B vitamins (citrus fruits, green vegetables and eggs) and complex carbohydrates (baked potatoes, pasta) to boost serotonin. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Seek professional help or advice. Make an appointment with the Student Support Advisor by emailing email@example.com or the Counselling Service
- Join a depression support group or arrange an appointment with a therapist. Go to your GP to talk about options including antidepressants.
If you know someone with depression –
- Keep in mind it is a medical condition. You would help someone with a broken leg. It is the same thing. Maybe reading up on the topic would help.
- Be supportive and talk about it. Take an active role in their care by being encouraging and talking about their options for help. Stay in contact on a regular basis.
- Be patient. Your words of encouragement may not ‘cure’ but getting frustrated will certainly make things worse. You are not going to be able to solve the problem in its entirety.
- Invite them on walks or small activities.
- Give them small goals to accomplish but don’t make them feel guilty if they don’t complete them. In fact, never make them feel guilty for any of their symptoms.
- Seek help and advice. Make an appointment with the Student Support Advisor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Encourage medical advice or professional help if you feel it is necessary.