An estimated 2.3 million people suffer from clinical depression in the UK but yet so many of us are too embarrassed to talk about it, preferring to hide our emotions away rather than face up to the stigma of mental illness. As part of Depression Awareness Week (April 22-28) we find out more about an illness that so many suffer in silence.
What is Clinical Depression?
Us Brits typically hide our feelings away. We say we’re fine when quite clearly we’re not, we tut loudly at anyone who shows the slightest bit of emotion and we try our best to avoid any awkward conversations about ‘how we feel’. Yet an estimated one in 10 people in the UK are not fine but often too afraid to do anything about it.
Everyone has days when they feel a bit low and fed up; these emotions are just a normal part of human life and usually nothing to worry about. But when a sense of unhappiness engulfs every aspect of your life and the days turn to weeks and even months, something is definitely not okay.
Sometimes life-changing events can trigger clinical depression, such as bereavement or losing your job, or even postnatal depression after having a baby.
People with a family history of mental health problems or depression are also more likely to experience the illness themselves. But for others there is no apparent reason at all.
Doctors describe depression by how serious it is:
- Mild depression has some impact on your daily life.
- Moderate depression has a significant impact on your daily life.
- Severe clinical depression makes it almost impossible to get through daily life. A few people with severe depression may also have psychotic symptoms.
Am I Depressed?
Depression affects different people in different ways and the symptoms of depression can vary greatly.
The psychological symptoms of depression can range from lasting feelings of sadness and extreme low self-esteem to losing interest in the things you used to love and feeling irritable and intolerable of others.
There can also be physical symptoms which include moving or speaking more slowly than usual, change in appetite or weight, unexplained aches and pains, lack of energy and disturbed sleep.
The symptoms of depression will be bad enough to have an impact on your work, family and social life and persist for weeks or months.
Depression will often come on gradually so it can be difficult to notice that something is wrong. Many people try continue to cope with their symptoms without realising they have an illness.
Dealing with Depression
No one should accept persistent feelings of sadness and simply do the typically British thing of ‘pulling themselves together’. Depression is a real illness with real symptoms and needs to be treated by a GP.
Treatment for depression usually involves either medication or talking treatments, or a combination of the two. The kind of treatment that your doctor recommends, will be based on the type of clinical depression you have, but can range from exercise and counselling to antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy.
If you have severe depression, you may be referred to a mental health team who will provide intensive specialist talking treatments as well as prescribed medication.
What to do if you think you or someone you know has depression?
It is vitally important to seek help from your GP if you think you have depression or someone you know has depression, the sooner you seek help, the sooner you will recover.
You can also find help and support for depression in various depression forums.