What is Depression?

What Is Depression?

Depression? The normal highs and lows of daily life mean that everyone feels down or has “the blues” sometimes. But if desolation and despair have taken hold of your life and won’t go away, you may have depression. Depression makes it very difficult to function normally and enjoy life. Just getting through the day can be overwhelming. But no matter how hopeless you feel, you can regain your passion for life. Understanding the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment of depression is the first step to overcoming the problem.

Sadness or downswings in mood are normal reactions to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but depression is much more than just sadness.

Some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom. However, some depressed people don’t feel sad at all—they may feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic, or men in particular may even feel angry, aggressive, and restless.

Whatever the symptoms, depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting, with little, if any, relief.

Are You Depressed?

If you are suffering from 5 or more of the following symptoms  for 2 weeks and you just cant seem to feel better, then you may be suffering from clinical depression:

  • Your sleeping patterns are disturbed, you can’t sleep or you can’t stay awake.
  • Your concentration tends to lapse and easy tasks become a chore.
  • You suffer feelings of hopelessness.
  • You have depressed moods for most of the day, almost every day.
  • You have lost interest in pleasure in all, or almost all activities most of the day.
  • Your normal eating patterns change, you don’t eat enough or you eat too much.
  • You are irritable and short tempered.
  • Your consumption of alcohol increases and you may engage in risky behaviour.
  • You have thoughts that your life is not worth living and sometimes consider self harm.

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.

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 and Suicide

Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The deep despair and hopelessness that goes along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain. Thoughts of death or suicide are a serious symptom of depression, so take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide: it’s a cry for help.

If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, express your concern and seek professional help immediately. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life!

If You Are Feeling Suicidal

When you are very depressed you tend to lose perspective, problems appear to be overwhelming and there is no end in sight. But with time you will begin to feel better, for example most people could probably not tell you what problems kept them awake a year ago. If you feel that life is just not worth living and you are considering self harm, reach out for help, there are many people who really do understand and are there to offer support. In South Africa contact LIfeline:

Suicide Helpline: SADAG 0800 567 567, SMS 31393, www,sadag.org

Tel:  (+27 11) 715-2000
Dicon number (switchboard cell) : 082-231-0805
Fax:  (+27 11) 715-2001

At The Haven we offer a successful treatment programme based around Interpersonal Therapy, CBT , psyochdynamic therapy and narrative therapies.