Life is all about ups and downs. We can’t always be happy. Sadness and regret is a part of who we are and it is okay to feel down at times. The low mood generally doesn’t last for long, maybe a week or two, then the wheel turns, and we are back to our normal selves.
When you are depressed though:
- The sadness doesn’t go away. It lasts for weeks or months.
- Things get so bad that you are unable to carry on with normal day-to-day activities.
You may not be aware that you are depressed, especially if it has caught up on you slowly. You may blame yourself for being helpless and not strong enough to tackle your problems. Often times, it’s the people around you – your spouse, family member, or a friend – who realise that something is wrong and you need help.
Symptoms of Depression
If you have more than a few of the following symptoms, you may be depressed:
- Feeling sad most of the time, but especially in the morning.
- Constantly tired
- Feeling irritable
- Loss of appetite with weight loss.
- Some people gain weight when they are depressed because they indulge in comfort eating to overcome sadness.
- Loss of self-confidence with a feeling of inadequacy.
- Inability to enjoy anything with a loss of interest in day to day activities
- Inability to take decisions
- Feeling agitated
- Restless sleep
- Avoiding people
- Suicidal thoughts
- Physical symptoms including frequent headaches, body pain, insomnia.
Causes of Depression
There are various reasons why depression can occur and these may vary from person to person. Here are a few of them:
- Life circumstances: Distressing events like bereavement, estrangement, divorce, or losing a job can make your mood low and you spend your time brooding and talking about this. You get over this after some time, but on the other hand, if the low mood persists over weeks or months, you become depressed.
- Loneliness: This is a major cause of depression. When you feel you have no one to turn to, you are at risk for depression.
- Physical illnesses: Chronic and painful illnesses like arthritis, life-threatening diseases like heart problems or cancer, and hormonal imbalances can affect the way you think and can lead to depression.
- Predisposition: Some people are more predisposed to developing depression than others. This could be due to their personality, life experiences, or their genes. Depression is genetic. You are more likely to get it if your parents had it too. Gender is another aspect, where women are more likely to get depressed than men.
- Alcohol and substance abuse: Excessive alcohol and drug use causes an imbalance of chemicals in the body and changes your mental makeup, causing depression.
- Stress: Chronic stress can turn into depression. When you are stressed, you are always anxious, your sleep cycle gets changed, and your mood turns low. Under constant stress, cortisol (a hormone in your body) becomes elevated, reducing serotonin and dopamine (neurotransmitters in the brain), causing depression.
Do I need treatment?
About 4 out of 5 people with depression will get better without any treatment in about 4-6 months – sometimes longer. About 1 in 5 will still be depressed for years. Even if the person gets better eventually, there’s a 50% chance of getting another one. A few even take their own lives.
In people who recovered without intervention, there is always a risk of recurrence. The person may also have gone through a tough time, the duration of which could have been reduced had he or she opted for treatment.
Therefore, the best course is to seek treatment.
- Are you continuing to feel sad and depressed for weeks together and you think you are not getting better?
- Are your depressive symptoms debilitating, preventing you from working and living a normal life?
- Are you feeling suicidal and you think that your family is better off without you?
If your answer is yes to any of the above questions, then, you will benefit from getting treatment.
To start with, you can try and talk this over with a family member or a friend. You can also consider visiting your primary care provider. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and the reasons behind your depression, your doctor may recommend self-help, anti-depressants, or a referral to a counsellor or a psychologist.
If you are seeking help with depression, our psychologists are here to assist you in exploring underlying issues through therapy. Please call 03- 9820 5577 for an appointment or to make enquiries. Alternatively, you can fill our contact form to leave a message and we will call you back.