One in five people will experience a form of depression at some point in their lives . Depression is a prolonged illness, whose symptoms include low mood, a lack of energy, a loss of interest in things you might normally enjoy, feelings of low self-worth, and changes in sleep and appetite .
It can be caused by difficult circumstances in your life, but it can sometimes come on seemingly out of nowhere. Some of the symptoms you might notice include:
- Low mood. Depression is characterised by prolonged bouts of low mood which feel very difficult to break out of.
- Loss of interest and energy. You may lose interest in the things you usually like doing. This can get in the way of your work, study, and social life.
- Concentration. Depression can affect your concentration, even to the extent that you may struggle to stay involved in a conversation.
- Sleep and appetite. You may experience changes in your eating and sleeping patterns. As well as disrupting your regular routines, eating and sleeping poorly can further affect your mood.
- Low self-worth. You may become more critical of yourself and possibly start lashing out at others too .
If you’ve noticed the symptoms of depression and things don’t seem to be getting any better, you should seek help straightaway. Getting support from friends and family is a great start, but seeking professional support is often the best way to cope with depression. Often, the quickest route is through your GP, who can make a diagnosis and referral.
There are many forms of mental health support, but most people with depression will undertake some form of talking therapy. This can help you explore the causes and find coping mechanisms to help you move forward. You may also be given exercises to take home.
In addition to any treatment you may undertake, there are many things you can do to support your own recovery:
- Learn about depression. Read up on depression and its symptoms to help you understand more about what you are going through and what you can do about it. You are already learning about depression by reading this article.
- Set aside blame. Accept that the illness is happening, and try not to blame yourself or anyone else. Remember that depression is treatable and try to focus on your recovery.
- Notice the signs. Try to make yourself aware of your symptoms and the things that can set off an episode of depression. Get support if things seem to be getting worse.
- Ask for help with practical problems. When you are depressed, problems can be magnified and may seem insurmountable. People like to help, so give them specific tasks to help with some of the practical problems in your way.
- Do some exercise. Get some gentle exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block or a 15-minute session from a trainer on YouTube. Exercising can have the added benefit of helping with sleep problems.
- Get out of the house. While it might seem easier to avoid social situations, it’s often best to try and turn up to things that you would usually enjoy. Even if you plan just to go out for half an hour, it can help break you out of a loop of inactivity and depression.
- Keep a mood journal. What usually makes you feel better – a morning walk? Cooking a healthy meal? Seeing friends? Keep a journal of what you’ve been finding helpful, and try to do more of it. Your journal can also help remind you that you have been making improvements, as it is often difficult to focus on the positives .
Going through depression is never going to be easy but, with the right support, even the most severe cases can be treated. As with any illness, you should seek professional help if you are worried. Recovery is likely to be gradual, but it is possible.
 NICE (2009) Depression: The Treatment and Management of Depression in Adults (Update). NICE clinical guideline 90. Available at www.nice.org.uk/CG90