Most of us use the word depression to describe feeling “low”, fed-up” or “sad” which is a common and an inevitable phenomenon in our lives and most of us recover quickly. When the low moods persist for months and it begins to interfere with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep and enjoy life, you may be suffering from depression.
Depression is a common experience in our society: the Mental Heath foundation estimates that 2 in 3 adults have depression at some point in their life. Symptoms of depression are debilitating and can become very distressing. Some people experience recurring episodes of depression, it is not uncommon to have three or more episodes of depression in one's life.
What is Depression?
People who are experiencing depression describe “having a feeling of impending doom”, “living in a black hole”, “unable to escape unhappiness and despair”, “lifeless and empty”. They are unable to experience pleasure, even with activities they used to enjoy and therefore they stop engaging in life and just “go through the motion”.
There are many symptoms of depression and they may vary from an individual to another in their nature and intensity:
- Feeling hopeless, sad, discouraged and empty for most of the day, every day for at least two weeks.
- Loss of enjoyment and interest in life, including former hobbies, social activities and sex.
- Poor appetite, significant weight gain/loss.
- Poor sleep or oversleeping.
- Agitated, restless or sluggish, lack of responsiveness, slow speech and body movement.
- Fatigue or loss of energy, even simple tasks become exhausting
- Strong feelings of self-loathing, worthlessness, guilt or uselessness.
- Loss concentration and memory problems.
- Irritability, frustration and anger.
- Aches and pains including headaches, backaches, diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal pain, and aching joints.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, preoccupation with death and dying which could lead to suicidal intents and acts. These suicidal ideations should always be taken seriously and seek professional help.
The severities of these symptoms vary however as a general rule, the more symptoms, the acuter the depression is likely to be.
People who suffer from an episode of depression often notice how their thoughts are dark, negative and distorted. Everything looks bleak and they hold extremely negative views of themselves, their situation, and the future. They feel consumed by negativity, unable to escape. They tend to become self-obsessed and feel hopeless and helpless and may consider suicide as their only way out of depression.
Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy can be helpful in coping with depression and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is a powerful approach for relapse prevention.