Depression is a mental health condition which affects a person's thinking, energy, feelings and behaviour. It can vary from mild to severe and can prove disabling in some cases, impacting on the individual's family and work life.
Any of us, irrespective of age, gender or background can be affected at any point in our life. Most people come through depression with help, and early recognition and ongoing support are essential for a positive outcome. It is possible to minimise the impact of depression by accessing information and support, and by finding ways to manage the condition.
What should I look for?
Depression has eight main symptoms. If you experience five or more of these symptoms, lasting for a period of two weeks or more, you should speak to a GP or mental health professional. The symptoms of depression are:
Feeling sad, anxious or bored
Low energy, feeling tired or fatigued
Under- or over-sleeping, or waking frequently during the night
Poor concentration, thinking slowed down
Loss of interest in hobbies, family or social life
Low self-esteem and feelings of guilt
Aches and pains with no physical basis, i.e. pain associated with anxiety or stress
Loss of interest in living, thinking about death, suicidal thoughts
What causes it?
Depression has a number of possible causes. For some people, it comes about as a result of a traumatic life event such as bereavement, relationship breakdown, financial difficulties or bullying. In other situations, the person may have an inherent tendency towards depression, and such genetic factors can be key in the case of bipolar disorder. This mood disorder involves not just periods of depression, but also periods of elation, where the person's mood is significantly higher than normal. During these periods, he/she may have excessive energy with little need for sleep, may have grandiose ideas and may engage in risk-taking behavior.
**With thanks to Aware Ireland