Clinical depression is a distressing condition characterised by both a persistent flat mood and negative thinking.
In truth people suffering with depression are stuck and feel trapped in a negative feedback loop of thoughts and feelings that are self reinforcing.
Depression ranges from mild to severe and may last from weeks to many months or much longer in many cases. A person may experience a single episode or several episodes.
If you have mild depression you may be able to continue to work for example but have lost your drive or spark. Severe depression significantly interferes with several areas of your daily life and in some cases you may not be able to fulfill your usual roles at home or at work. If there are suicidal thoughts then seeking professional help is essential.
Depression is categorised as a mental illness. This can be a frightening label because of the stigma and lack of knowledge surrounding words like ‘mental illness.”
Depression is an increasingly common experience. It is estimated that in Australia around one person in every five people will have an episode of depression at some point in their lives.
Friends, family and partners can inadvertently cause you to feel even worse if they are not able to understand or be supportive. Many people do not understand the nature of depression and it is not uncommon for those around you to expect you to ‘snap out of it’. This is a little like expecting someone with a broken leg to run. First, healing is required.
Symptoms of Depression
The word depression is used quite liberally. People say “I feel depressed” to describe a present, passing flat or low energy feeling. Probably everyone experiences occasional flat moods or sadness or lack of motivation as a normal response to particular events, or in response to the current circumstances we find ourselves in. For example if someone criticises you at work or your family forget your birthday, or you experience a disappointment or setback in your plans, you may feel down as an initial response. These feelings pass and we bounce back to our usual selves.
Clinical depression however is different to these feelings. It has more impact on your daily functioning and it can feel like it is impossible to escape its grip. Below are some of the more common symptoms of depression:
- Depression is an extremely isolating experience. You may have withdrawn socially, declining invitations to socialise and have no energy to engage in conversation with people. Ironically enjoying good relationships and quality connections with family, friends and colleagues are the very things that could help you overcome the depression.
- you have stopped doing things you used to enjoy or no longer find pleasure in doing these same things
- you may feel irritable, tense, agitated and exhausted
- energy is low and even the simple things you take for granted like taking a shower or preparing a meal can seem like too much effort
- other underlying feelings such as anger, guilt, regret and frustration are often experienced
- you feel a deep sense of hopelessness about ever feeling any different. People say “I can’t see a way out” or “this will never change.”
- you may have problems sleeping, either staying in bed for long hours using sleep to shut the world out or not being able to get a decent night’s sleep
- you may either lose your appetite or over-eat as a source of comfort
- you may increase the use of alcohol or other substances as a way of coping
- your interest in sex can fall away
- you may not be able to concentrate or think clearly, or to make decisions or to take positive action.
- you have lost confidence in yourself and your life and your self esteem is low
It can be devastating for someone who is used to being competent and in control of their life to succumb to the debilitating effects of depression.
If you think you may be depressed you can read more here about the causes of depression and treatment for depression.