We all feel sad or despondent from time to time, life can be challenging and it can be difficult to bounce back from those challenges. A diagnosis of depression, also referred to as Major Depressive Disorder, involves experiencing low mood and significantly reduced interest in activities most days for at least two weeks. For some people these physical sensations and emotions can be accompanied by thoughts of suicide.
Experiencing depression can contribute significantly to difficulties with day-to-day functioning. Some people may experience an urge to withdraw and stop engaging in the activities they used to enjoy.
Strategies to try now
Learning new techniques and positive lifestyle changes may help us to improve our mood and feel more steady. Some tips for overcoming depression and the effects it can have on our lives are:
Making sleep a priority
Being physically active
Maintaining a daily routine
Doing things that give us a sense of pleasure and achievement
Expressing ourselves through writing, or another creative outlet
Keeping socially active
Reducing alcohol and non-prescription drug intake
Speaking about difficulties we are having with someone we trust
Learning and practicing relaxation techniques
Practicing mindfulness, try the useful app below to get you started
It is estimated that in any year, 4% of Australians will experience a major depressive episode, with a lifetime prevalence of 16.6%
Warning signs and symptoms of depression
Some of the most common depression symptoms are:
Decreased energy, chronic fatigue or feeling sluggish
Difficulty concentrating, recalling past events or making decisions
Inexplicable aches and pains
Changes in appetite and weight
A loss of interest or pleasure in activities
Persistent feelings of sadness, loneliness or emptiness
Interrupted sleep or difficulty sleeping at all
Feeling hopeless, angry or irritable
Thoughts of death or suicide
What types of depression are there?
‘I have a beautiful baby, why am I feeling like this?’
Perinatal depression refers to depression symptoms which develop during pregnancy or within the first few weeks after the birth of a child. Perinatal depression or postpartum depression is different from the ‘postpartum blues’ or ‘baby blues’ in that the symptoms last longer than two weeks and can be more intense. Some symptoms include feeling low most days, lacking enjoyment and pleasure, feeling inadequate or guilty within your role as a parent, feeling hopeless about the future and potentially thoughts of harming yourself.
It is estimated that perinatal depression is experienced by one in seven mothers in Australia, and can be experienced by fathers too. Sometimes the symptoms develop during pregnancy and can be so overwhelming that we struggle to take care of ourselves.
Practical and emotional support from family and friends can be of great assistance, however be open to accepting the help of a psychologist and potentially antidepressant medication too.
‘Sometimes I feel like I just can’t slow down, other times like I can’t move at all.’
While it is completely normal to experience both highs and lows in response to life events, for those with bipolar disorder, these fluctuations can be very intense. Bipolar disorder is characterised by both extreme “highs” (referred to as mania) and extreme “lows” (referred to as depression).
Symptoms of mania include feeling euphoric or invincible, racing thoughts, little need for sleep, increased impulsivity and irritability, and delusions and hallucinations.
Symptoms of depression can be feeling sad or hopeless, losing interest in pleasurable activities, withdrawing from friends and family, changes in sleep patterns, loss of energy, poor concentration and feelings of guilt. Suicidal thoughts can also be present with depression, in some instances.
Bipolar disorder is used to describe a group of symptoms and it is important to speak to a professional to gain a clearer understanding of the specific diagnosis and treatment available for the depression disorder you may be experiencing.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)
‘I can hardly remember a time I didn’t feel like this, it has been years now’
People who have been diagnosed with dysthymia typically experience depression most days for durations of at least two years. The symptoms of dysthymia include ongoing changes to one’s self-esteem and concentration, changes in appetite and weight, chronically low-energy and trouble sleeping.
Depression and anxiety can often go hand-in-hand, in fact one study found that half of people with either anxiety or depression have the other condition.
Getting Professional Help
Evidence based treatments make the biggest difference.
It is always best to ask for help early after identifying the ways that you feel differently or less happy. This will allow you to get the assistance you need for dealing with depression. Antidepressants are just one approach to dealing with depression.
Talking with your GP is the best place to make a start. They can guide you to the help you need for yourself or someone you care about. After talking about your symptoms and the situation you are in, the GP will direct you to a psychologist near you who specialises in the area that you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some simple facts to help you understand depression and how you can best manage it.
Some life circumstances can result in an increased risk of anxiety. The most common risk factors include:
Experiences of trauma
Stress due to health challenges
Compounding, or long-term, life stresses, such as moving house, changes to employment or a death in the family
A lack of social support
Anxiety, or other mood disorders
Age, elderly people are at a particularly high risk of depression
Medications, such as seizure or cortisone drugs, sleeping pills and pain relievers
A genetic predisposition to depression
How common is depression?
Depression is the most commonly diagnosed of all mental problems. It is estimated that in any year, 4% of Australians will experience a major depressive episode, with a lifetime prevalence of 16.6%
Life after depression
Research shows that having social support plays a huge role in the ability to move beyond depression. We know that the length of time someone has suffered with depression is not a factor in their ability to flourish in a life after depression—so it is never too late to ask for help.
A number of factors can make moving beyond depression more challenging, these include physical ailments, chronic pain and illness, insomnia and substance abuse. Be sure to share every aspect of your feelings and physical health with your psychologist in order to receive the most comprehensive help possible.
Myths About Depression
``Antidepressants always cure depression``
Depression Myth 1
``Only women experience depression``
Depression Myth 2
``Keeping busy cures depression``
Depression Myth 3
``People with depression appear sad and show obvious symptoms``