It is estimated that one in four people will experience depression in their life time, and there are an estimated 350 million people suffering today. Yet from the people I have spoken to with depression, no two people experience it in the same way, which can make it very hard to be noticed and identified for some people.
Some have had shorter periods (weeks) and others much longer (years), some describe being mildly affected whilst others have had to completely change their lives. Depression can hold you back from being your best and it can be utterly debilitating. It can be extremely frightening and isolating and it can be a familiar but unwanted retreat.
What is Depression?
The phrase “I feel depressed” is often misused to mean unhappy by people who are genuinely and healthily unhappy for a few days. However depression is a nearly permanent low mood over weeks, months or years. Although some people experience it after life-changing events like the death of a close relative or having a baby, it may also have no obvious cause.
Some people describe feeling hopeless, unable to find joy in anything, even in the activities they have always enjoyed. People may experience sleeplessness or extreme tiredness, a lack a sex drive, loss of appetite or physical pains. Some people experience thoughts of suicide or self-harm and many sufferers also experience anxiety. For some, being very depressed can feel like life is no longer worth living or that they do not deserve to live or they may have a desire to hurt themselves in some way. There are many other symptoms that people report experiencing.
How can counselling help?
Association for Post-Natal Depression – 0207 386 0868
Depression Alliance – 0845 123 2320
Bipolar UK – 0207 931 6480
Rethink – 0845 456 0455,
Seasonal Affective Disorder Association – 01903 814 600
Ex-Service Mental Welfare Society – 01372 841 600,
Mind – 0845 766 0163,
Sane – 0845 767 8000,
What causes depression?
There is no single cause, there are many different reasons and each person can have different triggers. Some common causes are:
- Stressful life event – a bereavement, divorce, redundancy and other stresses
- Longterm illness – thyroid problems, head injury, cancer
- Personality – You may be more vulnerable to depression if you have certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem or being overly self-critical. This may be because of the genes you’ve inherited from your parents, or because of your early life experiences.
- Family History – If someone else in your family has suffered from depression in the past, such as a parent or sister or brother, then it’s more likely you will too
- Giving Birth – postnatal depression is thought to effect more that 10% of women who have children.
- Loneliness – becoming withdrawn from your family and friends can increase your risk of depression.
- Alcohol and drugs – Some people try to cope when life is getting them down by drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs. This can result in a spiral of depression.
Some sufferers wait a long time before seeking help, maybe due to shame or a desire to be strong and ‘just snap out of it’. Whatever your experience is, one of the common expressions that I have heard used is “no-one else understands what it’s like”. True. No-one can truly understand what is like for you but any counsellor will do their best to put themselves in your shoes and understand what depression means to you.