Depression has a very long history. Over two thousand years ago the Greek physician Hippocrates labelled it melancholia. The Royal College of Psychiatry states that depression is very common - one in five people become depressed at some point in their lives.
Most people experience temporary lows that may have been brought on by life events - and over time we will gradually pick ourselves up and return to normal. Sometimes though the feeling down can lead to a depression where everything is a struggle and we feel bad about ourselves, the future seems bleak and nothing worthwhile. For some people the depression can go on and on and become dominant in their lives, be severely disabling and even life threatening.
Depression affects us in different ways, but some common characteristics of depression are listed below:
People do usually recover from depression and may even find they can use the experience constructively as an opportunity to review their lives and make some positive changes.
There is still much mystery about depression and what it is, but depression is frequently linked with stressful life events such as a bereavement, redundancy, divorce and long-term stress that appear difficult to resolve. Depression can sometimes be linked to physical ill-health as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Early childhood experiences can also have an impact on how we deal with life events and whether we become depressed. Similarly our coping strategies for when things go wrong will have a bearing on whether or not we become depressed.
Any of us can have an experience that is overwhelming, frightening, and beyond our control. A traumatic event could be the sudden/violent death of a colleague, a near miss accident to yourself or a colleague, a threatening event at work such as a violent assault by a member of public or the witnessing of a violent incident.
A trauma is a frightening experience, which your mind and body may have trouble coping with. Remember: it is normal for a trauma to cause changes in how you feel, think and act. Try not to worry about these changes; this will only make things worse. What is traumatic to one person may not be for someone else. Some causes of trauma include:
Talking to someone close to you about how you feel can help. Going over a painful experience several times and crying it out can allow the mind to heal. Some of the steps below may help free you from the depression so you can move on.
Counselling gives people a chance to talk through their difficulties and feelings. Counselling can provide a powerful way of safely exploring how the depression began and developed, of uncovering what lies behind the depression and of assisting the individual to mobilise those centres of resilience that still remain to make positive life changes.
Medical treatment through GP is another avenue of help, they may offer a psychiatric referral or more commonly offer appropriate anti-depressant medication which can prove helpful. The depression may be linked to an imbalance in the chemicals inside the brain. The antidepressant drugs act to even out that imbalance. This can help lighten your mood and allow you to cope more effectively.
Some people find either of the above on their own enough, whilst others find a combination of both counselling and anti-depressants works for them.
Depression is a distressing experience and forces us to look at ourselves and our lives and consider how to change things. We may even come to see it later as a useful experience, although at times it may feel overwhelming.
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