‘I don’t want to go to school, or soccer, or see my friends, or anything.
I just hate everyone right now. Life sucks.’’
What is depression?
Most people sometimes feel unhappy, sad, miserable or just down. Depression is different from that, in the sense that a person feels down for a longer period of time and the feeling involves the person’s total being. It is a common mental disorder.
Depression doesn’t mean a person is ”crazy.” Depression is a real medical illness. Just like things can go wrong in your body, things can go wrong in your brain. Most people who get help, feel better and go on to live happy, fulfilled lives.
Signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
- Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
- Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
- Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
- Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
- Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
- Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
Different types of depression:
- Minor depression: is having symptoms of depression for longer than 2 weeks, but not being totally disabled in your daily functioning as yet. Untreated minor depression can become a major debilitating depression.
- Major depression: is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally; symptoms are constant, ranging from moderate to severe and lasts untreated up to 6 months.
- Dysthymia: is a mild recurring “low-grade” depression that lasts longer than 2 years and may cause a person to feel unwell and prevent normal functioning.
- Bipolar depression: is also known as manic-depressive illness is characterized by cycling mood changes from extreme highs (hyperactive, rapid speech, little sleep) to extreme lows (severe depression symptoms).
- Post-partum depression: is a longer lasting and more serious depression triggered, in part, by hormonal changes associated with having a baby and develops any time from the birth to six months afterwards.
- Seasonal affective disorder: is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight and it lifts again in spring and summer time.
- Psychotic depression: is a severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).
Why do people get depressed?
Causes and risk factors for depression
- Lack of social support
- Recent stressful life experiences
- Family history of depression
- Marital or relationship problems
- Financial strain
- Early childhood trauma or abuse
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Unemployment or underemployment
- Health problems or chronic pain
The different faces of depression
Depression often looks different in men and women, and in young people and older adults. An awareness of these differences helps ensure that the problem is recognized and treated.
Depression in men
Depression is a loaded word in our culture. Many associate it, however wrongly, with a sign of weakness and excessive emotion. This is especially true with men. Depressed men are less likely than women to acknowledge feelings of self-loathing and hopelessness. Instead, they tend to complain about fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and loss of interest in work and hobbies. Other signs and symptoms of depression in men include anger, aggression, violence, reckless behavior, and substance abuse. Even though depression rates for women are twice as high as those in men, men are a higher suicide risk, especially older men.
Depression in women
Rates of depression in women are twice as high as they are in men. This is due in part to hormonal factors, particularly when it comes to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), postpartum depression, and perimenopausal depression.
As for signs and symptoms, women are more likely than men to experience pronounced feelings of guilt, sleep excessively, overeat, and gain weight. Women are also more likely to suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
Depression in Teens
While some depressed teens appear sad, others do not. In fact, irritability—rather than depression—is frequently the predominant symptom in depressed adolescents and teens. A depressed teenager may be hostile, grumpy, or easily lose his or her temper. Unexplained aches and pains are also common symptoms of depression in young people.
Left untreated, teen depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug abuse, self-loathing—even irreversible tragedy such as homicidal violence or suicide. But with help, teenage depression is highly treatable.
Depression in older adults
The difficult changes that many older adults face—such as bereavement, loss of independence, and health problems—can lead to depression, especially in those without a strong support system. However, depression is not a normal part of aging. Older adults tend to complain more about the physical rather than the emotional signs and symptoms of depression, and so the problem often goes unrecognized. Depression in older adults is associated with poor health, a high mortality rate, and an increased risk of suicide, so diagnosis and treatment are extremely important.
Many new mothers suffer from some fleeting form of the “baby blues.” Postpartum depression, in contrast, is a longer lasting and more serious depression triggered, in part, by hormonal changes associated with having a baby. Postpartum depression usually develops soon after delivery, but any depression that occurs within six months of childbirth may be postpartum depression.
Depression is a major risk factor for suicide.
”My best friend has been acting so strange lately. Now she’s really scaring me because yesterday she said the world would be better off without her.”
The deep despair and hopelessness that goes along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain. If you have a loved one with depression, take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously and learn to recognize the warning signs.
Click on Suicide for information
Tips for reaching out and staying connected
- Make face-to-face contact a priority.
- Talk to one person about your feelings
- Find ways to support others. Help someone else by volunteering
- Have lunch or coffee with a friend
- Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly
- Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together
- Call or email an old friend
- Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it.
- Go for a walk with a workout buddy
- Schedule a weekly dinner date
- Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
- Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach
- Get a pet and care for it.
Do things that make you feel good: a hobby, something that you create, take a trip, a treatment.
Look after your health – eat well, get enough rest, get some sunlight on your skin. Go for a walk. Swim. Cut down on carbs and sugar. Avoid alcohol.
Challenge negative thinking patterns. A man is as he thinks. Are you hard on yourself? A black and white person? Do you overthink and over assume?
When should you get help?
As a general rule of thumb, if your feelings of depression persist for most of every day for two weeks or longer, and interfere with your ability to manage at home or outside the home, then you would benefit from assessment by a skilled professional.
Depression medications are a common part of treatment. Some people use these medications for a short time, while others use them long term. Your doctor will take multiple factors into consideration before prescribing any medication, including:
- possible side effects
- current health concerns
- possible drug interactions
- your specific symptoms
Medications that are commonly used to treat depression include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These typically have less side effects than other types of antidepressants. Fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and escitalopram (Lexapro) all fit into this category.
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs. These include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).
- Tricyclic antidepressants. These antidepressants can be very effective, but cause more severe side effects. They’re often used if you haven’t responded to other medications. These include imipramine (Tofranil) and nortriptyline (Pamelor).
- Mood stabilizers or anxiety medications are sometimes combined with antidepressant medication. If you’re seeing a counselor or a therapist who can’t prescribe medications, they can contact your primary care doctor and request the prescription for you.
Antidepressants help balance brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These brain chemicals affect your mood and emotions. An imbalance can cause major depression or anxiety disorders. Antidepressants correct this imbalance, but it can take four weeks or more to notice any improvement.
Finding the right treatment is often a trial-and-error process. If one doesn’t work, it’s good to move on. If two or more months have gone by and you’ve stuck to a treatment but don’t feel any relief from the depression, it’s likely not working for you. You should experience relief from depression within three months of starting a medication.
Talk to your doctor immediately if you’re:
- depression doesn’t improve after several month of treatment
- symptoms have improved, but you still don’t feel like yourself
- symptoms get worse
These are signs that your treatment plan isn’t working for you.
Alternative treatments for depression
There are a variety of alternative and natural treatments that are often used to treat depression. These treatments shouldn’t be used without consulting your doctor first, especially if you’re taking prescription antidepressants or other medications.
Some alternative remedies for depression include:
- St. John’s Wart
- omega 3 fatty acids
- massage therapy
- relaxation techniques
You can do a self-test quiz to learn more about signs and symptoms of depression or suicide.
If you have symptoms of depression and feel unsure what to do about it – please chat to a facilitator on the LIVE CHAT about it and get help. It is an anonymous helpline. We are online Sundays: 18h00 – 20h00 / Mondays – Thursdays from 19h00-21h00.
What to do if you feel suicidal
- Tell someone right away.
- Make sure you are not alone.
- Don’t use alcohol or drugs.
- Ask your family to lock away knives, ropes, pills and guns.
- Keep pictures of your favourite people with you.
- Spend time with family and friends. Even if you would rather be alone – it is not a good idea.
Warning: What happens when you stop taking anti-depressants abruptly?
Some people stop taking their medication because they feel better, others because they feel it isn’t working. Quitting “cold turkey” may cause major withdrawal symptoms. A sudden drop of your medicine may also worsen your depression, send your symptoms on a downward spiral, or set your treatment back several weeks or months.
Just found out you’re pregnant? That’s no excuse to stop taking your antidepressants. According to the Mayo Clinic, women who stop taking antidepressants while pregnant are more likely to suffer a relapse during pregnancy than women who continue taking their prescribed medication. Let your doctor know about your change in circumstances. They may decide to take you off your medication or lower the dosage. You can also take a different antidepressant, one that’s safer for pregnant women.
The best way to stop taking your antidepressant is to slowly taper yourself from the medication under a doctor’s supervision. This involves slowly lowering the daily dose of medication until you are completely off the drug.
Book a Counselling Session
You can book individual counselling sessions with the following therapists: