feels a bit low sometimes - it's the mental health equivalent
of the common cold. But for some people it's much more serious,
paralysing their ability to get on with life.
are the symptoms?
As with many mental health problems, there are a number of
symptoms of depression and it's very rare for all of them
to occur in one person. They include feeling generally miserable,
as well as:
*Variation of mood during the day. It's often worse in the
morning, improving as the day goes on - but the pattern can
be the other way around.
*Disturbed sleep, usually waking early and being unable to
get back to sleep. This is often because of the negative thoughts
racing through the head.
*A general slowing down of thought, speech and movement.
*Feelings of anxiety.
*Tearfulness for no reason.
*Lack of energy and constant exhaustion.
*Inability to enjoy things.
*Lack of concentration.
*Difficulty making decisions.
*Feeling that you're forgetful.
*Negative thoughts about the future.
*Feelings of guilt.
*Loss of identity.
*Blaming self and low self-esteem.
*Feelings of hopelessness and despair.
*Unrealistic sense of failure.
*Loneliness, even when around others.
*Becoming preoccupied with illness.
*Loss of appetite and resulting loss of weight.
*Reduced desire for sex.
a very bleak picture. However, it's important to remember
that depression isn't an absolute - it's not simply a case
of either you're depressed or you're not. There's a progression
from feeling blue to the full clinical illness described above.
Even then, you won't suffer from every symptom. It's also
important to remember that depression is treatable and, if
you take the right steps, avoidable.
common is it?
Seven to 12 per cent of men suffer from diagnosable depression,
and 20 to 25 per cent of women. There are many theories as
to why the figure is higher for women. The incidence of post-natal
depression certainly contributes to the higher figure.
explanations include the low status of women and the difficulties
they face in achieving life goals. It could also be that women
tend to be more honest about their emotions than men, so their
depression is easier to detect.
your mood and thoughts
This is the starting point for managing depression. It will
help you learn to spot an episode of depression before it's
too late. Using the thought monitoring technique, you can
decide which thoughts represent an accurate picture of what's
going on around you - and which are unrealistic and created
by your mood beginning to fall.
someone you trust to monitor your mood
You won't spot every episode of depression before it happens,
but those closest to you will often be able to recognise the
early signs. Talking to them about this problem is probably
one of the most valuable ways to deal with it. An agreement
with a family member or friend as to how and when they could
point out the problem, and what the two of you do to address
it, is invaluable.
that you go through the agreed tasks to address the problem,
even if you don't feel your mood is falling - you may be surprised
by what they bring out. The kind of tasks you could do with
your relative or friend include: stress auditing, thought
and mood inventories, and talking about any incident that's
given the family member or friend cause for concern.
to help yourself
It's not unusual to experience some of the signs of depression
from time to time. But if the feelings are very strong all
the time, there are things you can do to help yourself.
*Notice 'thinking errors'. Are you overgeneralising. For example,
do you imagine every pain is a deadly disease? Do you tell
yourself everything is going wrong when only one thing has
gone wrong? Do you forget about the good things in life and
concentrate on the bad?
*Balance frightening thoughts with reassuring statements.
*Occupy your mind. Concentrating on something can lift your
*Exercise. Physical activity relaxes you and makes you feel
*Pay attention to the way you look.
*Eat a regular diet of wholefoods. Vitamin B6 supplements
are helpful too.
*Avoid alcohol. It's a depressant, even if it makes you feel
*Investigate alternative and complementary therapies.
to seek help
If your low mood or loss of interest in life interferes with
your home, family or work, lasts for two weeks or more, or
brings you to the point of thinking about suicide, you may
be experiencing clinical depression and you should seek help.
There are many kinds of help available. Talk to your GP or
contact a mental health organisation
(R) thedailystar.net 2005