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What Is It, How Does It Feel and How Can You Treat It?
Reviewed by our psychologist : Sam Saxton
You feel sad, sluggish and disinterested in everything. It takes a massive amount of effort to simply go to work and do regular household chores. Everything seems to be too much and you feel like you’re all alone in the world. What’s more, it’s not just a slump, these symptoms have been going on for weeks or even months. Do you see yourself in this description? Then there’s a good chance that you’re suffering from depression. Fortunately, you’re not alone and there are things you can do about it. Read on to learn more about depression, as well as getting some practical tips and advice on treatment options.
In this article:
- What is depression?
- How does depression feel?
- What are the psychological and physical symptoms?
- Different causes of depression
- Practical tips for people with depression
- Treatment methods for depression
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What is depression?
Depression is a mental disorder that affects your mood, thoughts, and feelings. We use the term depression when a selection of relevant symptoms has been present for over two weeks and doesn’t seem to be improving. It’s an extremely common condition and, globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults are currently suffering from depression. Depression can be light, moderate or severe and in some cases, it can last years. If you’ve been continuously depressed for the last two years, then we use the term chronic depression.
Types of depression
- Bipolar disorder (or manic depression)
- Clinical depression
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Postnatal depression
How does depression feel?
Depression manifests itself slightly differently in each person. There are many different symptoms, but you won’t necessarily experience them all. A distinction is made between core symptoms and additional symptoms.
Core symptoms of depression
- Feelings of sadness
- Inability to derive pleasure from things
- Lack of motivation
Psychological symptoms of depression
- Problems concentrating
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of shame
- Constant worrying
- Suicidal thoughts
Are you afraid that you won’t be able to break out of this negative spiral? Depending on your location, call one of the following numbers for immediate support:
- 116 123 (UK)
- 1-800-273-8255 (USA)
- 0900-0113 (The Netherlands)
Physical symptoms of depression
- Lack of energy
- Low sex drive
- Changes in weight
- Significantly increased or decreased appetite
- Sleep problems: Sleeping too much or too little
- A continued feeling of restlessness
- Sluggish feeling in the body
Different causes of depression
Depression can have various causes It’s often a combination of genetic, social and psychological factors.
Genetic factors can increase your chance of developing depression. But fortunately, that doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely struggle with depression throughout your life. Your environment plays a major role here. As do your hormones. If your hormones are out of balance for some reason, for example, because of chronic stress or a traumatic event, you’ll have an increased risk of developing depression. The chances of developing depression are also greater for women going through menopause because lots of hormonal changes take place during this time. This means that they are more likely to experience feelings of depression.
A major, distressing event, such as the death of a loved one, can trigger feelings of depression. The same is true for childhood trauma or feelings of extreme loneliness. Sometimes, something serious happens in your life and you find that you don’t have much in the way of social support. You can’t depend on your friends or family, and you feel alone and socially isolated.
Depression can also arise as a result of negative experiences in your childhood that lead to poor self-esteem. You’ll constantly experience negative thoughts, be afraid to fail, and experience low self-confidence. These negative thought patterns often suck you in and you get caught up in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts.
Practical tips for people with depression
Talk about it with your friends, family or primary care physician
Try to keep talking about your feelings. For example, with your friends, family or partner. Do you find this difficult? Then go and see your doctor. Often, your primary care physician will have a psychologist on staff if you need somebody to speak to every now and then. Not only will talking about your depression come as a relief, but it will also help your loved ones to understand and support you better.
Add structure to your life
Create a routine by going to bed every night around the same time and setting your alarm for the morning. Try not to lie in bed for too long and instead get up as soon as your alarm clock goes off. Make sure not to skip meals or oversleep and try to eat your meals at the same times each day. Schedule (social) activities, such as hiking or doing household chores. Allow yourself to feel grounded by maintaining a steady rhythm.
Eat and drink healthily
Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself. This includes healthy eating. It’s essential for your body that you’re getting all the right vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Your body still needs fuel, even when you’re depressed, and bear in mind that depression has been linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Are you worried that your diet might be lacking something? Speak to your primary care physician and see if they can perform a blood test.
Exercise and sports
It might sound obvious, but it’s really important to keep moving. You don’t have to work out really intensely, it’s just about staying active. Try to go for a walk each day, preferably through a forest or some other natural environment. Once you’re moving and exercising, your body will start producing hormones that make you feel happy: Endorphins. Even if you only walk for half an hour each day, you’ll notice that it makes a huge difference to your mood.
Reduce the amount of alcohol and drugs you consume
Consuming these substances can intensify your depression. They’ll briefly numb everything, but they’ll soon start to adversely affect your stress hormones, actually amplifying any feelings of sadness and apathy. Of course, a couple of glasses of wine can help you to feel calm and happy, successfully numbing those awful feelings of sadness. But as soon as the alcohol is out of your system, those feelings will come rushing back just as hard. The same is true for drugs. This includes sleeping pills and sedatives. You also run the risk of falling into a vicious cycle where you use drink and drugs to try and forget your depression.
Do things you enjoy
Even if it’s just a little bit – you want to try and do things that normally make you happy. They don’t have to be particularly productive activities. The most important thing is that whatever you’re doing should make you feel good. For example, try making music, painting or doing something else creative with your hands. Maybe take up gardening, go cycling, or craft a wooden house for the hedgehog that lives in your garden. And don’t start with anything too unfeasible. You want to set small goals so that you won’t be disappointed if something doesn’t work out or you can’t stick with it.
Take part in social activities
Make an effort to keep going out: Let your friends drag you out the door if necessary. Or invite them over. Social activities are a good distraction and they can help to take your mind off things for a while. Try to interact with another person at least once a day. Even just a chat with your neighbor, a postal worker or the cashier at your grocery store can really help. And you don’t have to talk about your depression all the time, see these activities as an opportunity to focus on other things.
There are various online self-help programs for people with depression. The idea of these is that you’ll learn to improve and appreciate your quality of life again. There are also lots of books you can buy that are full of tips, as well as recognizable stories and situations, to help you get going. By actively confronting your depression for yourself, you can take back control of your life. However, this does require a certain degree of motivation. Ask a friend to support you by cheering you on and holding you accountable.
Getting help from a psychologist
Have you tried everything and not seen much improvement? Then it’s time to seek help from an experienced psychologist. There’s a so-called depression protocol. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is usually the starting point, but Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is also an option. If there’s any underlying trauma, then EMDR or Image Rescripting might be applied.
Treatment for people with depression
It’s important to look at two of the main factors that perpetuate depression: Activity patterns and (often involuntary) negative thoughts. These two patterns need to be addressed if you want to overcome your depression.
- Activity patterns
When you’re feeling sad, it’s hard to keep up with your daily tasks, let alone major activities. You definitely want to do things, but one way or another you find ways to postpone them, meaning it gets harder and harder to actually do them. You then start to feel like you can’t handle these activities. This creates a sense of powerlessness, which, in turn, makes you feel more depressed.
- Negative thoughts
You have a bleak view of the world and everything around you. You tend to focus on the negative when it comes to yourself, others, the world and the future.
The gloomy feelings caused by depression can be very persistent. They can also become more intense over time. It can feel as if you’re trapped in a vicious cycle and it’s hard to see a way out, which makes you feel even more depressed. The solution is to seek help from a psychologist. Why not make an appointment with one of our psychologists? They’ll teach you how to manage your depression and give you tools to break out of a spiral of gloomy thoughts.
Do you have any questions about depression and how to treat it? Call us on +3120 214 3004.