Recognising depression

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
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Page 1 of 2: Depression
A major 2009 study found that anti-depressant drugs don't work for the majority of people who take them, which raised all sorts of concerns for the one in 10 people who suffer from serious depression. "What will help me if anti-depressants won't?" will be a big and justified question on their mind.

It also raises larger questions about the nearly 32 million prescriptions for anti-depressants that were written in 2009: why have so many drugs been prescribed when perhaps they've done little good and many people suffer side-effects from them?

Probably the main reason for this is that depression has become a catch-all diagnosis that some respected researchers say covers many other emotional and psychological conditions like anxiety, stress, and the unhappiness from distressing life events like divorce and bereavement.

Busy and over-stretched doctors simply don't have the time to make a thorough diagnosis — despite their best intentions — and giving a prescription has frequently seemed the best solution.

That aside, the most important thing I'd like to say to you if you are presently on anti-depressant medication is that you should not stop taking your medication without the guidance of your doctor!

Despite the findings of this report, anyone on medication needs to come off of it in a supervised manner.

The second important point I'd like to make is that anti-depressants like Prozac, Seroxat, Efexor and others, might work very well for you as an individual and you should not worry when hearing about this research that you're doing the wrong thing taking them if they have benefited you!

The good that can come from this report
Now, let's consider the fact that there's a real positive to come out of this report — that we can now re-focus our minds on how best to help those who suffer with depression and who are not helped by anti-depressants.

With depression being the number one illness across the whole world, there are a huge number of people out there who need to get the right help for them.

If you've suffered from depression you'll know how it seeps into every aspect of your life.

The signs and symptoms include:

  • First and foremost a pervading feeling that you're "blue", down, feel despair, are sad, not yourself, low in spirits — essentially depressed.
  • Irritable and short-tempered for apparently no reason.
  • Have a lack enthusiasm for the things you once enjoyed.
  • Find it very hard to sleep or are sleeping too much.
  • Can't get motivated for things like work and day-to-day chores.
  • Everything feels like it's an effort and some people describe that they are "walking through sludge".
  • Loss of interest in sex.
  • Loss of appetite or wanting to eat more.
  • Feeling hopeless and also helpless.
  • You might also stop looking after yourself properly.
  • Unexpected feelings of anger.
  • You may feel guilty and/or ashamed that you have no "obvious reason" to feel depressed.
  • Easily stressed out — you may find things that used to be easy now seem difficult.
  • You might have suicidal thoughts.
  • You might find yourself turning to alcohol and drugs to "make you feel better" but this is not the solution.
  • And you may notice your own unique symptoms.

If you've felt any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks then that should be a wake-up call to try and determine whether or not you have depression. Now that this report has made it quite clear that people need to look at what care is available to them besides anti-depressants, rest assured there is lots you can do. Find out on page 2.

What you should do now

  • Let your nearest and dearest know that you have concerns about your well-being. Don't keep these blue feelings secret. Keeping them to yourself can worsen them.

  • Go to your doctor and book a double appointment so that you have plenty of time to go through your symptoms.

  • It's terribly important while you're getting help to decrease any demands on your time that you can. The fewer demands that you have in your life, the quicker you can recover. This is about setting limits and learning to assert yourself because many people who get depression struggle with setting boundaries and saying No to other people's demands for their time.

  • Make sure you eat well and don't rely on pre-packaged ready meals that may have too much salt, sugar and other additives that are not good for your mood.

  • Try to establish a good sleep routine.

  • Allow yourself one small nap or rest during the day but avoid staying in bed.

  • Take gentle exercise every day to boost your endorphins - those feel-good brain chemicals.

  • Try keeping a journal so that you can keep tabs on how your mood goes up and down.

  • Get to know what things actually set you off as people are more likely to suffer more depressive episodes if they do not sort out the root cause.

  • Begin to learn to talk about your feelings to other people so that you feel you have better communication and stronger relationships — definitely a protective factor that helps protect you from future depression.

  • Question whether you're a bit of a perfectionist and need to accept yourself more. Realise the fact that no one is perfect. The seemingly "strongest" and most compassionate people I've ever met have often been depressives! But they must learn to say No to helping others when they need to be gentler and help themselves.

Couselling
If you and your doctor think it's appropriate then get counselling. There are different types of counselling but cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been successful for many people with depression. It teaches them how to rethink about their world and challenge any negative beliefs that feed their depression.

If you end up going for a "talking cure" with some form of counselling you'll find one interesting point many counsellors talk about is "surrendering to your depression and acknowledging it". In a sense they urge you to "embrace it" so that you can then actually face it head-on. The basis for this is that if you don't wholeheartedly face it and embrace it than you may stay in denial about what's causing it.

Where does depression come from?
Although every person's set of symptoms and experience of depression is unique there are a few major causes, these are:

  • Reactive depression: where you're "reacting" to some sort of life events like divorce or bereavement.
  • Chronic depression: a long-term depression that may have resulted from something like a difficult or traumatic childhood or event, or work from a disturbance in your brain chemistry.
  • Bipolar disorder: manic depression where people experience extreme highs followed by extreme lows.
  • Postnatal depression (illness): after the birth of a baby, women may suffer this either in a very minor form right through to a much more serious condition.
  • SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder that affects people in the autumn and winter months and is tied into lack of sunlight.
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