What is depression?.
At some stage of our lives we have all said that we are feeling down, a little sad or fed up with things. Generally these feelings will pass, if they are recurring and having an effect on your day-to-day life then you may actually be depressed in the clinical sense of the word. There are many levels to depression from the mild that makes day-to-day life just a little more difficult to the very extreme(clinical depression) which can be life threatening.
Low spirits, restless, tearful, numb and empty, isolated and alone, irritable and impatient, no pleasure in life, loss of interest in sex, helpless, a feeling of being unreal.
Not doing activities and pass-times you usually enjoy, avoiding social events, cut yourself off and find it difficult to ask for help, self harming, unable to talk.
Difficulty remembering things, hard to concentrate or make decisions, self blame and feelings of guilt, no confidence or low self-esteem, negative thoughts and feelings, see no future, is there a point?, suicidal thoughts.
Difficulty sleeping or sleeping a lot more than usual, tired and no energy, loss of appetite and weight loss or eating far more than normal and gaining weight, aches and pains with no physical symptoms, moving slowly, smoking, drinking or taking drugs in excess.
If from the symptoms above you tick five or more you may possibly be depressed. Often you do not notice these symptoms and signs yourself and they creep up on you over time. Many people who suffer with depression may also have anxiety and the two can make each other worse. You may have psychotic experiences and have feelings and thoughts that others around you do not have, you may hear voices, see visions, have feelings that you are a bad person or are evil, you may feel that you are influencing things in a bad way, thoughts that you deserve to feel this way, all these are false beliefs and are part of the depression not part of you.
Along with all the other thoughts and feelings you may have suicidal thoughts, these thoughts can be very frightening and hard to control, there is always someone to talk to however difficult you may find it at the time taking that first tiny step and talking is the first part of the journey to fighting and beating the depression that is not you.
There are many things that may trigger depression, it varies from person to person and can stem from one or more events.
Life events such as losing your job or your home, divorce, physical or sexual assault. The loss of a loved one, moving through a phase in life such as reaching retirement, children leaving home. It is not the negative experience alone that is the cause but how we deal with it. All emotions are born in childhood and are often hidden away or locked in the recess of the mind,
The event now is not the cause it is just an event that ties on to the emotion that was born and created in childhood, through life many events will tie to that original emotion be it anger, fear, hate or however the depression that you now have is feeling, the part of you that is having those feelings now is linked to the past and the first feeling of that emotion.
Some physical conditions can lead to depression but are overlooked, conditions affecting the brain and nervous system, hormonal problems, especially thyroid and parathyroids problems, symptoms relating to the menstrual cycle or the menopause, low blood sugar, sleep problems. If you are suffering any of these when you talk to a professional make sure they are aware of these issues.
Poor diet and the effects of it can lead to depression, there is also evidence that certain foods can lead to depression or increase the feelings. Processed and high sugar foods are believed to have an effect on depression.
Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood; symptoms that this is going on include fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, excessive sweating (especially at night), poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and crying spells, digestive disturbances and blurred vision. Since the brain depends on an even supply of glucose it is no surprise to find that sugar has been implicated in aggressive behaviour, anxiety, and depression, and fatigue.
Lots of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates (meaning white bread, pasta, rice and most processed foods,) is also linked with depression because these foods not only supply very little in the way of nutrients but they also use up the mood enhancing B vitamins; turning each teaspoon of sugar into energy needs B vitamins.
Alcohol and drugs:
However tempting the thought of a drink or a hit to help you feel better in actuality the opposite is the net result, alcohol is a depressive and some drugs if used repeatedly can lead to depression.
Because antidepressants work by changing brain chemistry, people have assumed that depression must be caused by changes in brain chemistry that are then ‘corrected’ by the drugs. Some doctors may tell you that you have a ‘chemical imbalance’ and need medication to correct it. But the evidence for this, apart from the effects of medication, is very weak, and if changes to brain chemistry occur, we don’t know whether these are the result of the depression or its cause.
Depression is a side effect of a lot of different medicines; for example, many people become depressed after a heart attack, and this may be more likely if they are taking beta blocker medicines as part of their treatment.
If you are feeling depressed after starting any kind of medication, it’s worth looking at the patient information leaflet that came with the drug to see if depression is listed among the side effects. If you think a drug is causing your depression, you could mention this to your doctor and see if there is an alternative you could take, especially if you are expecting the treatment to last some time.
How to help yourself:
There is no magic pill that will cure you, only you have the answers to your questions.
If you start to feel depressed break the chain of negativity. Stop the negative thoughts and feelings, it can be very easy to get into an automatic chain of negative thoughts that feed each other, “When are you going to stop feeling sorry for yourself” ask yourself that question and let your subconscious answer you. Each time that negative pattern happens change the parts that are feeling negative to positives, it’s just a thought.
Keep active, get out rather than sit and stew in self-pity allowing the negatives to feed each other and increase the depression, go for a walk and take in the positives that you see. As in the post on Ecotherapy there is a lot to be gained from physical activity no matter how small to start, aim for around 20 minutes three times a week. Play is an excellent way to be active without the “I hate the gym” feeling.
Connect with others, it will often feel hard to communicate with others. Start with a short call with a relative or close friend. When you are ready you may find it helpful to take part in activities with others in a social event.
Care for yourself:
You need to do things that will improve the way you feel about yourself.
Allow yourself positive experiences and treats that reinforce the idea that you deserve good things. eg a long bath, a day out with a friend., Pay attention to your personal appearance., Set yourself goals that you can achieve and that will give you a sense of satisfaction., If you find it hard to remember things, you may want to write them down on sticky notes, in a diary or set reminders on your mobile phone., Look after yourself by eating healthily, as much as possible. Oily fish, in particular, may help reduce depression.
If this post strikes a chord with you in any way please do not hesitate in contacting me, alternatively you can contact Talking2Minds the mental health charity.
Each journey be it a mile or a thousand miles starts with one small step, take that step now and break the negativity and embrace the posir