Depression is a common medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression is a serious illness, fortunately, it is treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and persist for more than 2 weeks. These may and include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Each year, around one million Australian adults are diagnosed with depression. Slightly more women (1 in 5) are diagnosed than men (1 in 8) However depression can affect all ages, cultures and socio-economic classes.
Several factors may play a role in your risk of developing depression:
- Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
- Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life.
- Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
- Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.
Despite being so common, there is still a stigma surrounding depression, which results in many people not being properly assessed and treated.
Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. There is no one size fits all treatment and everyone will have a different recovery path. You should consult a medical professional for advice. Treatment may include psychological treatments (also known as talking therapies) that help you change your thinking patterns and improve your coping skills and/or medical treatment including antidepressant medication which can be very useful in the treatment of moderate to severe depression and anxiety.
There are a number of things you can do to help reduce the symptoms of depression. For many people, regular exercise helps create positive feelings and improves mood. Getting enough quality sleep, eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol can also help reduce symptoms of depression.
You can learn more about the White Cloud Foundation’s Multidisciplinary approach to treating and preventing depression here.
If you or someone you care about need immediate help please call Lifeline on 13 11 13.
If the situation is life threating please call 000
For more information about programs and services that may assist you click here.