If you have been feeling depressed for 2 weeks or more then make an appointment to see your GP sooner rather than later, and be open and honest about all your physical and psychological symptoms and how you feel. Some people find it difficult to talk about their feelings but your GP will need all this information to make the right diagnosis, and to access the right support and treatment options for you.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Psychological symptoms include:
- Continuous low mood or sadness
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- Having low self-esteem
- Feeling tearful
- Feeling guilt-ridden
- Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- Having no motivation or interest in things
- Finding it difficult to make decisions
- Not getting any enjoyment out of life
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
Physical symptoms include:
- Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- Change in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Lack of energy or lack of interest in sex (loss of libido)
- Changes to your menstrual cycle
- Disturbed sleep (for example, finding it hard to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning)
Social symptoms include:
- Not doing well at work
- Taking part in fewer social activities and avoiding contact with friends
- Neglecting your hobbies and interests
- Having difficulties in your home and family life
- The kind of treatment options that your GP may recommend will depend on the type of depression you have.
If you’re diagnosed with mild depression then your depression may improve by itself. In this case you will be reviewed by your GP after 2 weeks to monitor your progress. This is known as watchful waiting.
Mild to Moderate Depression
If you have mild depression that isn’t improving, or moderate depression, your GP may refer you for a talking therapy – Counselling/Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that will help you deal with and overcome issues that are causing problems, or making you feel uncomfortable.
In most cases, it takes a number of sessions before the counselling starts to make a difference, and a regular commitment is required to make the best use of the therapy.
Counselling will afford you an opportunity to understand the underlying causes of your depression and help you find different ways of coping with and dealing with your difficulties.
CBT has also proven to be particularly helpful at treating depression and will focus on your current issues rather than the past, and will afford you an opportunity to manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.
Moderate to Severe Depression
If you are diagnosed with moderate to severe depression your GP may prescribe a course of Antidepressants to treat the symptoms of Depression, and also a talking therapy particularly if the depression is severe. The combination of antidepressants and a talking therapy usually works better than just one of these treatments.
If you have severe depression your GP could also refer you to a mental health team made up of psychologists, psychiatrists,specialist nurses and occupational therapists. These teams often provide intensive specialist talking treatments as well as prescribed medication.
Some people may be reluctant to take antidepressants because they worry these drugs are addictive or have serious side effects. Often these worries are unfounded and it is important to discuss any concerns you may have with your GP or other prescriber, and read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication.
It normally takes 2 weeks before Antidepressants start to take effect and it can take up to 6 weeks for them to have full effect. If they aren’t working well after 4-6 weeks your prescriber may consider increasing the dose or may prescribe a different Antidepressant to see if it works better for you.
Different Types of Depression
There are different types of depression, and some conditions where depression may be one of the symptoms. These include:
Postnatal depression. Some women develop depression after having a baby. Postnatal depression is treated in similar ways to other forms of depression, with talking therapies and antidepressant medicines.
Bipolar disorder is also known as “manic depression”. It’s where there are spells of depression and excessively high mood (mania). The depression symptoms are similar to clinical depression, but the bouts of mania can include harmful behaviour such as gambling, going on spending sprees and having unsafe sex.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Also known as “winter depression”, SAD is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern usually related to winter.
I know this is easier said than done if your energy levels are low but recovering from depression really does require positive action on your part even though you may lack the enthusiasm to be proactive.
Try not to withdraw and isolate yourself from your family,friends or support organisations because this is the exact opposite of what you need, and socialising can improve your mood. Talking to someone when you’re feeling low will help, and your family,friends,GP,and support organisations are there to help you.
Try and develop a structured routine
People with depression function much better with structure and routine in their lives and it will help with the symptoms of depression.
Be mindful to schedule times to get up,go to bed and regular eating habits as well as eating a healthy diet.
Try not to vary these times by more than an hour and include any hobbies, activities and interests within your structured routine. Its OK to allow yourself positive experiences so schedule them.
Build exercise into your daily routine.
This does not mean it has to be hard work or exhausting. Be good to yourself and start with achievable goals such as a simple 5-10 minuet walk outside.Try and do this at the same time every day, and build up the exercise routine gradually.
Don’t drink too much alcohol
Try to avoid drinking alcohol as it can have a depressive effect, and you may be tempted to use it as a way of coping with your emotional state. Using alcohol to make you feel better is not the answer.
Remember Depression is an illness not a weakness so please don’t judge yourself for being Depressed. Stay strong and remember with the right treatment and support most people make a full recovery.