Depression

What is it?

While everyone feels sad from time to time, depression—sometimes referred to as clinical depression or major depression—is a mental illness that is predominantly characterized by feeling low for a prolonged period of time. Although sufferers may feel that they are alone, depression is a surprisingly common mental illness as it is estimated that around 7% of American adults have suffered from some kind of depressive illness.

One of the problems with depression is that it is often difficult for those suffering from it to recognize that they have it and it is often difficult to spot if someone you know is suffering from it. If left untreated, depression can have a major impact on day-to-day life.

There is no one sole cause of depression, rather it is provoked by a variety influences including genes, personal experience and psychological factors. However, mental illness treatment has come a long way in recent decades and in most cases those who suffer from depression can fully recover with the right treatment and support.

Symptoms

As well as feeling low or unhappy for a prolonged period of time, there are a number of additional symptoms that can be attributed to depression. Depression can be incredibly difficult to spot. However, if you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, there is a strong chance that you could be depressed. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Feeling of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Changes in sleep patterns: such as insomnia, waking up early or sleeping in excess.
  • Difficulty in making decisions and concentrating on day-to-day tasks.
  • Irritability and restlessness.
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Treatment

There are a number of treatments available to help those who are suffering from depression these include counselling, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and medication.

Counselling is often a successful way for treating mild depression and usually consists or 1- or 2-hour sessions a week for up to 20 weeks.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a type of treatment that aims to alleviate depression by teaching individuals how to spot and divert thinking patterns that lead to unhelpful or harmful thoughts. This makes CBT great for avoiding future episodes of depression.

If your depression falls into the moderate to severe category, you are likely to be prescribed medical treatment to help adjust the chemical imbalance which causes depression. However, it is important to stress here that while antidepressants can alleviate the symptoms, they do not change the individual’s circumstances and as a result medication is likely to be complemented by counselling and CBT.