Nearly everyone has felt depressed, sad, or down in the dumps at one time or another. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to a stressful event, such as when one suffers a loss or endures another of life’s various struggles or stresses.

Sometimes, however, these feelings of depression can become intense, last for long periods (weeks or even months), and prevent a person from doing their normal day to day activities. This is what is known as ‘major’ or clinical depression.

Depression is a serious medical condition that affects your behavior, your thinking, your emotions, and your physical health over time. Clinical depression is more than feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.

Clinical depression is not a sign of weakness. It is not something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”. However, with the right treatment and support, most people with clinical depression can make a full recovery.

How to tell if you have clinical depression

Depression can affect people in different ways. The symptoms of clinical depression can be complex and vary from person-to-person. Generally, if you have clinical depression:

  • you feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you used to enjoy
  • you experience these symptoms for at least 2 weeks
  • the symptoms are serious enough to interfere with work, social life or family

There are many other symptoms of clinical depression and you’re unlikely to have them all.

Psychological symptoms

The psychological symptoms of clinical depression include:

  • continuous low mood or sadness
  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • having low self-esteem
  • feeling tearful
  • feeling worthless or guilt-ridden
  • being more irritable and intolerant of others
  • having no motivation or interest in things
  • finding it difficult to make decisions
  • not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • irritable mood
  • feeling anxious or worried
  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Physical symptoms

The physical symptoms of clinical depression include:

  • moving or speaking slower than usual
  • changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
  • constipation
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • lack of energy
  • low sex drive (loss of libido)
  • changes to your menstrual cycle
  • disturbed sleep – difficulty falling asleep, waking up early or sleeping more than usual

Social symptoms

The social symptoms of clinical depression include:

  • not doing well at work
  • avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
  • neglecting your hobbies and interests
  • having difficulties in your home and family life

What causes depression?

There are a lot of different causes of depression. These include:

  • A build-up of stress and anxiety from being bullied, working too hard, or family situations.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse cause depression.
  • Grief or serious life changes, such as when someone dies, you become sick, lose your job, or have an accident.
  • Depression runs in families and you might inherit the genes that make it more likely to have depression. However, if a family member suffers from depression, it doesn’t mean that you will as well.
  • Whatever the reason for depression, remember that it’s never your fault. Depression is a common health problem, just like as high blood pressure, diabetes, or a heart condition.

If you think you’re suffering from depression, the first thing to do is talk to someone. The most important thing is to deal with the problem. Don’t ignore depression or hope it goes away on its own. 

What treatment is there?

If you’re feeling depressed, there are different types of treatment available. However, you need to talk to a doctor to find out what treatment is best for you.  Some types of treatment include:

  • Counseling or Psychotherapy can help many people deal with their depression. Ask your doctor to recommend a psychotherapist or counselor.
  • Support groups where you can meet other people who have suffered from depression.
  • Your doctor might prescribe antidepressant drugs. They may take some weeks to work.
  • Learning to relax can help. Try exercise (a brisk 20-minute walk three times a week can really make a difference to feelings of depression), yoga, or spending more time with friends.

Some services that can help you include:

  • Jigsaw – free counseling and mental health service for young people. 
  • Samaritans – a free, confidential listening service. You can contact them at 116 123.
  • Childline – a free, confidential listening service for people under 18. You can contact them on 1800 666 666.
  • Traveller Counselling Service – a free counseling service for Travellers going through any sort of difficulty. You can contact them on 086 308 1476.

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