|Loss of Hope: Dealing with Depression|
We often use the expression "I'm feeling depressed"
when we're feeling sad or miserable about life.
Usually, these feelings pass in due course. If the
feelings are interfering with your life and don't go
away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back,
over and over again, for a few days at a time, it
could be a sign that you're depressed in the medical
sense of the term.|
In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesnít stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, major depression (clinical depression) can be life-threatening, because it can make people suicidal or simply give up the will to live.
When you are depressed, you may have feelings of extreme sadness that can last for a long time. These feelings are severe enough to interfere with your daily life, and can last for weeks or months, rather than days.
Depression is quite common and about one in ten people will experience depression at some point. Women are more likely to have depression than men, and 1 in 4 women will require treatment for depression at some point, compared to 1 in 10 men.
Causes of Depression
There's no one cause of depression; it varies very much from person to person and can occur through a combination of factors. Although depression doesn't seem to be inherited through genes, some of us are more prone to depression than others.
Past experiences can have a profound effect on how we feel about ourselves in the present, and if those feelings are very negative, they can be the start of a downward spiral. In many cases, the first time someone becomes depressed, it's triggered by an unwelcome or traumatic event.
Depression is seen by some experts as a form of unfinished mourning. Often events or experiences that trigger depression can also be seen as a loss of some kind. It could be following the actual death of someone close, a major life change (such as moving house or changing jobs) or simply moving from one phase of life into another, as we reach retirement or our children leave home.
Signs of Depression|
Depression shows itself in many different ways. People don't always realise what's going on because their problems seem to be physical, not mental. They tell themselves they're simply under the weather or feeling tired. But if you tick off five or more of the following symptoms, it's likely you're depressed:
Depression has one major characteristic that you need to be aware of when thinking about what you can do to defeat it. It can feed on itself. In other words, you get depressed and then you get more depressed about being depressed. Negative thoughts become automatic and are difficult for you to challenge. Try to recognise the pattern of negative thinking when you are doing it, and replace it with a more constructive activity. Look for things to do that occupy your mind.
An important thing to remember is that there are no instant solutions to problems in life. Solving problems involves time, energy and work. When you are feeling depressed, you may well not be feeling energetic or motivated to work. But if you are able to take an active part in your treatment, it should help your situation.
Although you may not feel like it, itís very therapeutic to take part in physical activities, for 20 minutes a day. Playing sports, running, cycling, and even brisk walking can stimulate chemicals in the brain called endorphins, which can help you to feel better.
You need to do things that will improve the way you feel about yourself. Allow yourself positive experiences and treats that reinforce the idea that you deserve good things. Pay attention to your personal appearance. Set yourself goals that you can achieve and that will give you a sense of satisfaction.
Practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine concern themselves with the person as a whole, and don't just treat their symptoms. They can take more time with you than a GP can. They may offer treatments such as acupuncture, massage, homeopathy and herbal medicine that many people with depression have found helpful. St John's Wort is one of the herbal remedies that have become very popular, and may help to lift your mood. But if you are already taking other medication, it may not be safe to combine them. Consult your pharmacist or GP for more information.
Support from Others
People with depression often withdraw from friends and relatives around them, rather than asking for help or support when this is a time when they need your help and support most. The most important thing that you can do is to encourage your friend or relative to seek appropriate treatment.
Donít blame them for being depressed, or tell them to 'pull themselves together'. They are probably already blaming themselves, and criticism is likely to make them feel even more depressed. Praise is much more effective than criticism. You can reassure them that it is possible to do something to improve their situation, but you need to do so in a caring and sympathetic way.
You can show that you care by listening, sympathetically, by being affectionate, by appreciating the person, or simply by spending time with them. You can help by encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling and getting them to work out what they can do, or what they need to change, in order to deal with their depression.
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