Depression affects people in different ways and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to treating it. Sometimes you might not even be aware that you’re suffering from it, or that someone you care for is struggling with it. When one in ten people experience depression in their lifetime, it is worth being aware of how to spot it and coping strategies for when it hits.
As with many conditions, depression has a wide range of symptoms. These can be physical, psychological and can affect how you engage socially. It’s unlikely a person experiencing depression will have every symptom associated with depression. Here are some examples:
- continuous low mood or sadness
- feeling hopeless and helpless
- having low self-esteem
- feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- having no motivation or interest in things
- having suicidal thoughtsor thoughts of harming yourself
- moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- lack of energy
- avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
Where does it come from?
A whole host of factors contribute to the onset of depression. Biological and neurological factors (for example, genetics and chemical levels in the brain) play a part, as do psychological and social factors (such as early childhood experiences, bereavement, or life-changing events). This is why when people say things such as “Why are you depressed?”, there can never be a simple answer. Sometimes people can be fully aware why they’re depressed and for some people depression can seem completely out of the blue.
How do I cope with depression?
Regardless of the causes of depression, it is important that it is taken seriously and steps are taken to improve mental health. Depression can prevent you from living life the way you like, or would like, to live it. Whether it’s being unable to get out of bed in the morning or being unable to enjoy the things you used to love, with treatment in place, depression can become more bearable. The two main treatments suggested by the NHS are medication and therapy (which you can read more about here), but there are a few steps you can try to improve your wellbeing in the meantime:
- Open up to a close friend or family member
While the mathematics behind the phrase “a problem shared is a problem halved” is questionable, it’s sentiment is definitely one to get behind. Opening up to someone about how you’re feeling can be a great way to tackle some of the hopelessness and isolation you feel when you’re depressed. Being around people who care about you, and who see all of the good things you have to offer, can do wonders for your sense of self-worth. You matter and those you’re closest to can help you believe this.
- Invest in a self-help book
This isn’t for everyone, but for some people a self-help book might be the best place to start. Depression is a difficult thing to understand and get to grips with, so why not trust in an expert on the topic to get you on your way. There are so many different styles of self-help literature when it comes to depression that it’s worth looking through the range that is out there. Some are funny (which might really cheer you up!), some take a scientific route and some are based on sociology and psychology. Have a browse through the list of thirty we link to at the end of the article to see if one appeals.
- Look after your physical health
Putting on your gym clothes and doing some exercise can sometimes seem like an impossible task, with or without depression. Yet when physical movement releases endorphins in your body (chemicals associated with positive feelings and a reduced perception of pain) it’s worth giving it a go. You don’t have to do an extreme high intensity workout, even something as simple as a quick stroll in the park can make a difference. Your physical health has a direct impact on your mental health so upping your exercise levels (and maintaining a healthy diet) can boost your emotional wellbeing too.
- Pick up a hobby
Psychologist Carl Jung once said ‘“What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.” What he’s essentially saying is do what makes you happy and takes your mind off your troubles. If you used to love to paint, pick up your paintbrush. If you used to love to play hockey, pick up your stick. Negative thoughts can lead you on a downwards spiral when you’re depressed so finding something that you enjoy and makes you focus can work a treat.
If you’re struggling with depression, please check out this list of organisations that can help: