Depression is a medical condition that affects the way you think, feel and act. It’s a common illness and can be treated. Depression can have many causes, from emotional and life events to inherited genes or changes in brain chemistry. Some people are more vulnerable to depression than others, and the symptoms can get worse over time. Depression can make it hard to live your best life and may cause problems in relationships, work or school. Depression can even lead to thoughts of suicide.
Most of us have experienced feelings like sadness or low mood, but depression is much more serious than temporary blues. It can last longer than two weeks, affect your daily functioning and interfere with your ability to enjoy life. Depression can have many symptoms including changes in appetite, loss of interest or pleasure from activities, sleep disturbances and feelings of hopelessness or guilt.
Some of the most common signs are feeling tired all the time, having a negative outlook on life, having trouble concentrating, feeling hopeless or worthless and having suicidal thoughts. You might also have difficulty thinking clearly, having a slow response time and feeling angry easily. You may withdraw from friends and family and be secretive about your feelings, or you might find yourself blaming yourself or thinking you deserve what is happening to you.
If you think someone you know is depressed, talk to them. Explain that it is not their fault, and that you want to help them. Encourage them to see a doctor or therapist and tell the therapist what they are experiencing. It is important for a person to feel supported when they are sick, and having a caring network of family and friends can help them stay healthy.
It is also important to understand that depression can be masked by a variety of behaviours, and that some people might not recognise they are depressed. For example, they might show anger or aggression as a way of dealing with difficult feelings. Having a regular routine, eating well and getting enough exercise can all help.
In addition to talking therapy, antidepressant medications and in severe cases electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) can be used to treat depression. Some people might also benefit from complementary therapies, such as acupuncture or herbal medicine.
It is normal for everyone to have some of these feelings from time to time, but if you experience them persistently and for more than a few days, it’s important to seek professional help. Ask your doctor about clinical trials that are looking at new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat diseases and conditions, including depression. These studies are often carried out in hospitals and might include some tests or questionnaires about how you feel. You might be asked to give blood samples or have a physical examination. Often the research is anonymous. Some people might not be eligible to participate in a clinical trial, but you will be told why.