Most of us can relate to feeling sad, down or lonely at times - but how do you know if you're suffering from clinical depression? The difference between short-lived sadness and true depression is in the consistency and intensity of those feelings.
Signs you might
Feeling depressed is an ordinary reaction to everyday trials and tribulations. If you lose your job or fight with your partner, or even just have a bad day at work, it's normal to feel deflated or upset as a result.
It's when these feelings become consistent or overwhelming – or when they come about for no reason, and stick around for a long time – that you need to seek professional help. Even though the name is the same, this true clinical depression is far more than a short-lived sadness or an upset over a particular event.
When to seek help
Unfortunately, there's an unwarranted stigma associated with depression that prevents people from seeking treatment, but it's important to realise that depression is very common, and you're not alone.
The statistics are shockingly high: according to the UK Mental Health Foundation, one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem over the course of a year. There are more than 60 million people in the UK, so that's around 15 million people per year suffering from some kind of mental health issue in Britain alone.
Mild depression can cause you to feel bleak, lonely and uninspired, but at the worst end of the scale, severely depressed people struggle to hold down jobs or relationships, or maintain an active lifestyle. Without diagnosis or treatment, those battling with depression will often attempt suicide or self-harm. Currently, the UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in all of Europe.
Symptoms of depression
Here are a few signs to watch for:
• Restlessness and difficulty concentrating/making decisions
• Persistent feelings of guilt
• Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness or hopelessness
• Decreased energy levels
• A continually pessimistic outlook
• Disrupted sleep: insomnia or excessive sleeping
• Easily irritated
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
• Loss of appetite
• Overeating/gaining weight
• Persistent sadness or anxiousness
• Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
Due to the UK's northern latitude, which means fewer sunlight hours (particularly during winter), the British are more susceptible to a light-sensitive depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Finding help for depression
Do you recognise any of these signs -– either in yourself, a friend, colleague or family member? If so, there is help at hand! For advice, support and more information, talk to your GP or check out the following sites: www.samaritans.org, www.mind.org.uk and www.rethink.org.