Depression is quite different from just feeling sad. Sadness is a normal human state. Depression can creep up gradually and can range from mild depression, where there is some impact on your daily life, to severe depression, where normal daily life is virtually impossible.
Difficult events such as bereavement, divorce, physical accidents or illness can trigger a grief reaction. This usually lifts within six months to a year but in some cases can progress into depression.
Depression can be caused by a genetic predisposition. If your parents or siblings suffer from depression, you are at greater risk. It can also be caused by biochemical factors involving serotonin, which can lead to depression occurring without any obvious reasons.
People who have depression tend to have a combination of symptoms including low mood, loss of energy, loss of enjoyment or feeling pleasure, altered appetite, disrupted sleep, poor concentration and motivation, a loss of libido, a negative outlook and in some cases thoughts and ideas of suicide. The features are usually present for a period of at least a fortnight.
Our consultants are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating depression. In the first instance, it may be appropriate for you to go and talk to your GP. Mild depression may improve by itself and your GP can monitor your progress. Exercise has also been proven to help with depression and there are some self-help treatments available.
Should your depression be moderate to severe, you will usually be referred by your GP or consultant psychiatrist for talking therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. If your depression is severe or has gone on for a long time, the use of medication in the form of anti-depressants may be advised.
Anti-depressants may take several weeks to work and you will need to be regularly monitored. Although anti-depressants are not addictive, you should always talk to your GP or consultant if you are thinking of stopping them. You will need an adequate dosage for an adequate length of time (usually six months).