In a crisis?
For urgent medical attention, for example, if you’re worried about acting on thoughts of suicide, or you’ve seriously harmed yourself, you cancall 999 or go straight to A&E.
What is depression?
Depression is a commonly used word, often used to describe feeling low or unhappy. It’s frequently used to describe a temporary feeling or feelings about a particular situation or circumstances. In most cases, these feelings lift of their own accord after a short time or following a change in the circumstances that were causing them. The use of the word ‘depression’ in this way can make it difficult for some people to understand the concept or experience of depression when used in its clinical sense.
Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time and affects your everyday life. If the low mood you are experiencing is interfering with your life and doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks, or if it keeps coming back for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you’re experiencing depression.
In its mildest form, depression doesn’t stop you from leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, it can be life-threatening, because it can make you feel suicidal. Regardless of whether depression is mild, moderate or severe, it’s very different from ‘just’ feeling low. It’s something that’s likely to interfere with daily life, relationships, ability to attend school/work and to enjoy life. It can last for long periods of time, with some variation in the level and intensity of depression felt.
The changes caused by depression are likely to be apparent to those close to you, especially in moderate to severe cases. Perhaps you appear quiet and withdrawn, rejecting friends and family. However, some people, particularly if they’ve had depression for a long period of time, may learn to put on a ‘mask’, to present a lighter, brighter face to others than they actually feel inside. This may be because they feel they ‘can’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ show their real selves to others; they may worry that they’ll be rejected if they do that. This can make it very hard for someone to ask for help and make it difficult for others to recognise that you need help and support.
Types of depression:
If you’re diagnosed with depression, you may be told that you have mild, moderate or severe depression. This describes what sort of impact your symptoms are having on you currently, and what sort of treatment you’re likely to be offered. You might move between mild, moderate and severe depression during one episode of depression, or across different episodes.
There are also some specific types of depression:
- seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – depression that usually, but not always, occurs in the winter;
- dysthymia – continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more. Also called persistent depressive disorder or chronic depression;
- prenatal depression – sometimes also called antenatal depression, it occurs during pregnancy;
- postnatal depression (PND) – occurs in the weeks and months after becoming a parent. Postnatal depression is usually diagnosed in women, but it can affect men too.
Depression itself can also be part of several mental health problems, such as:
- bipolar disorder;
- emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD, also known as borderline personality disorder – BDP) and other personality disorders;
- schizoaffective disorder.
What’s it like to have depression?
There are many feelings and behaviours associated with depression, and everyone’s experience varies. Some common signs of depression include:
- down, upset, tearful;
- restless, agitated or irritable
- guilty, worthless and down on yourself;
- empty, numb, isolated and unable to relate to other people;
- finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy;
- a sense of unreality;
- no or low self-confidence or self-esteem;
- hopeless and despair;
- suicidal thoughts/behaviours.
- avoiding social events and activities you usually enjoy;
- self-harming or suicidal behaviour;
- finding it difficult to speak or think clearly;
- losing interest in sex;
- difficulty in remembering or concentrating on things;
- using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual;
- difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much;
- feeling tired all the time;
- poor appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight;
- physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause.
If you experience an episode of severe depression, you might also experience some psychotic symptoms. These can include:
- delusions, such as paranoia;
- hallucinations, such as hearing voices.
You might worry that experiencing psychotic symptoms could mean a whole different diagnosis, but they can be a symptom of depression. If you experience psychotic symptoms as part of depression, they’re likely to be linked to your depressed thoughts and feelings. These kinds of experiences can feel very real, frightening and upsetting to you at the time, which may make it hard to understand that these experiences are also symptoms of your depression.
It’s very common to experience depression and anxiety together. Some symptoms of depression can also be symptoms of anxiety, for example:
- feeling restless;
- feeling agitated;
- struggling to sleep and eat.
Self-harm and suicide:
If you are feeling low, you might use self-harming behaviours to cope with difficult feelings. Although this might make you feel better in the short term, self-harm can be very dangerous and can make you feel a lot worse in the long term. When you’re feeling really low and hopeless, you might find yourself thinking about suicide. Whether you’re only thinking about the idea, or actually considering a plan to end your life, these thoughts can feel difficult to control and very frightening. If you’re worried about acting on thoughts of suicide, or you’ve harmed yourself, you can call 999, go straight to A&E or call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 to talk.
How can I help myself?
Experiencing depression can make it hard to find the energy to look after yourself. However, these five tips can make a big difference to how you feel:
- look after yourself – get a good night’s sleep, try to eat well, look after your hygiene, avoid alcohol and drugs, and try to keep active;
- practice self-care – work out activities that make you happy, treat yourself, create a resilience toolkit, and be kind to yourself;
- keep active – join a group, try new things, try volunteering and set realistic goals;
- challenge your low mood – keep a mood diary and try to challenge your thinking;
- connect with people – join a peer support group or use online support.
It’s also important to reach out for support; there are numerous kinds of support for depression. The first step usually involves seeing your GP who can help suggest and guide you to a referral. The two main treatments for depression are talking therapies (such as cognitive behavioural therapy – CBT) and, in some cases, medication (such as antidepressants).
Useful contacts – in a crisis
Dorset Mind isn’t a crisis service and we’re unable to help someone who may be in serious mental distress. Please use the following options if you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
Urgent medical attention: If you or someone else is in serious risk of death or injury, call 999.
Other crisis situations:
- Call your GP or other allocated health professional, such as your Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) or Mental Health Crisis Team)
- Call NHS 111 (out-of-hours)
Someone to talk to: If you’re desperate to talk to someone, the Samaritans can help – call 116 123 for emotional support and a listening ear 24/7. This is a freephone number. It can be called from a mobile that has no credit and the call won’t appear on the phone bill.
Useful contacts – who else can help?
Online community for adults experiencing emotional or psychological distress. It’s free to use in many areas if you live in the UK, if you’re a student or if you have a referral from your GP.
Charity providing information and support after a loved one has died.
A self-help organisation made up of individuals and local groups.
STARS (Sexual Trauma and recovery service) – Local! (16+)
A voluntary organisation run for men, women and young people over 16 who have been raped or sexually abused, regardless of however long ago the abuse took place.
Dorset Recovery Education Centre (REC) – Local! (18+)
Provides education and training for people affected by mental health problems, focusing on self-management, self-determination, choice and responsibility. Courses are available to people with personal experience of mental distress and their carers/supporters, friends and family, and also for staff members who work alongside people suffering periods of ill health.
A charity providing free, confidential support for young people under 25 via online, social and mobile. The Mix provides support not only about mental health but also drink & drugs, money, sex & relationships, housing, work & study, among others. Their Crisis Messenger service is available 24/7.
A charity supporting adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse. Provides a support line and local support services.
National charity for parents, providing information and support for all parents.
If you are struggling to cope with life and feel yourself approaching a crisis point, you can attend The Retreat in Bournemouth, Monday to Thursday between 4.30PM – midnight, and Friday to Sunday 6.30PM – 2AM.
Steps2Wellbeing – Local! (18+)
A free, confidential, NHS service for people aged 18+, providing psychological support across Dorset and Southampton for people registered at either a Dorset or Southampton GP surgery. As an IAPT service (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), they accept self-referrals online and by telephone.