”Do I have depression?” You may find yourself asking when you notice that something might not be quite right.
We can all have ‘down moments’ or ‘down times’ where we feel sad and demotivated, but at what point should we begin to worry about this and think it is more than just being ‘down’. Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days, people can have these moods persist for weeks or months.
The word depressed seems to be used very casually and I have often heard people say, ‘I feel depressed today’ or ‘today is depressing’ and it has led to the perception that the feelings that someone with depression may have are in passing and it is something they should be able to snap out of, but this is not usually the case. Depression is not trivial, it is a genuine health condition with real symptoms and is best treated with the medication, therapy and support- the best thing is that many people make a full recovery.
Depression is characterised by many different symptoms and some of these include, but not limited to: lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, losing interest in the things you used to enjoy, tearfulness, anxiety, tiredness, poor sleep and no appetite.
For those wondering if someone close to you has depression, it is important to think about whether these symptoms apply to them. Other than mood changes, think about whether there is something that they used to do often that they no longer do. This can include hobbies like sports or writing, a program that they enjoy watching daily or less social activity.
If you think you have depression but cannot associate the onset of symptoms with a trigger, that does not mean that you do not have depression. For some, family history of depression can explain this or there could be a trigger that has affected you, but you have not acknowledged it. However, some obvious triggers can include bereavement, losing your job, having a baby or moving homes.
For people that think they are depressed, it is important to seek help from your GP sooner rather than later (even if you think it is something that will pass). GPs are well equipped to deal with these situations and prescribe medication or refer you to other services. If you are nervous to do this, there is a questionnaire developed by Drs Robert L Spitzer, Janet BW William and Kurt Kroenke which can shed some light on whether you may be suffering from symptoms and if so, this may be the motivation you need to consult the GP: https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9.
Although it is important to know that if your depression severity is ‘very severe’ based on this test, you must not panic and think that you definitely have depression. This test is for Medical Professions such as your GP to administer, and there are self-reports effects that can occur if you fill it out yourself, but I suggest it just to look over and see if over the last 2 weeks you have been feeling significantly troubled in some way.
Your GP may suggest some different methods to treat depression depending on the severity and it is usually a combination of lifestyle changes, talking therapies such as CBT and medication.
If your GP considers your depression to be mild, they may not suggest medication straight away and may suggest exercising or self-help group. If it seems like the symptoms are not improving, medication may be prescribed or a referral for therapy (or both). Medication can be very beneficial and works for many.
Talking therapies are also very beneficial but within the NHS there is a lot of demand and you may find that you are on a waiting list. If you think that you require therapy urgently, you can consider seeing a CBT therapist and Psychiatrist privately, but it can be costly. Your GP will also recommend lifestyle changes such as cutting down alcohol (as it can have effects on medication), eating healthily and giving up smoking.
Like I mentioned earlier, self-help groups are great because they help you gain a better understanding of what might be making you depressed and sharing your experiences with others can be very supportive.
So, in a nutshell, you cannot diagnose yourself.
There are tools online and changes that you can make to your own life to shed some light on your feelings and trying to improve them, however, it is extremely important that if you are noticing these changes, then you see you GP. It is not something to be ashamed of and if it is acknowledged and treated early may make a full recovery.