Caroline Carr: Depression affects everyone’s life in one way or another – either directly through experiencing it yourself, or indirectly through loving or caring about someone who does. It is likely to be the result of a combination of some of the following: life circumstances – what has occurred, and what is occurring in the person’s life, the type of personality a person has, and how they deal with things generally, whether or not depression runs in the family, genes and DNA.
Depression can come on suddenly as the result of a trauma or stressful event – although it may not show up till some time afterwards. Or it can build up for years. Some people can have one bout during their lives – or several. Others feel sad and gloomy for months or years. In some cases, it never really goes away.
When a person is depressed, they can become so focused on their negative thoughts and feelings, that it becomes their normal mood state. They can’t seem to break this. To them, everything has a down side – as if they are stuck in an ever-shrinking, oppressive mental black box. They cannot just ‘snap out of it’ – they would if they could, because all they want is to feel better. People describe feeling as if their life is spiralling out of control; therefore any unhelpful behaviour is likely to be a result of that.
Everyone’s experience differs, and this may change as they sink into a deeper state of depression. It is thought that men and women experience and deal with depression differently too. Some people feel and exhibit anger, some do not. Many people do not have the energy to be angry. They may be in a state of lethargy and hopelessness.
Different types of depression are more debilitating than others – and more serious.
Categories and types include:
Bipolar Disorder (manic depression)
Generally characterized by severe mood swings – ‘up’ periods of mania with huge surges of energy and activity, and sometimes irritability and anger, then severe crashing ‘lows’ – the depression. Some people only experience these occasionally, and others may have up to five or six episodes a year. For more details see: www.mdf.org.uk
This can be very serious, and the mother and others around her may not recognise it for what it is. Often it doesn’t show up until months after the baby is born. A woman suffering with post natal depression needs a great deal of support. For more details see: http://www.pni-uk.com/ , and www.apni.org
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):
SAD affects some people over the winter months due to reduced exposure to light. This is thought to affect the chemistry in the brain. It is fairly common in the UK, and the symptoms are similar to those of depression. But, some people are affected adversely by bright sunlight and hot weather too, particularly if they are experiencing high levels of anxiety. For more details, see the article on Healthy Soul: Are you sad?
This is when a person’s mood is generally low, and this affects all aspects of their life for longer than a few weeks. Often, it’s not triggered by anything in particular. It seems to come from a shift or change ‘within’ the person, and there may be no obvious reason for it.
I think it’s really important to see the doctor in the first instance, because any symptoms could be due to something else, such as another illness or infection, or a deficiency of some kind. Assuming that there are no medical issues though, treatment offered usually includes medication, often combined with talking therapy such as psychotherapy or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). However, many complementary therapies work really well in the treatment of depression.
Here are a few links to organisations who are doing fantastic work to raise awareness and to provide information and support about depression and other aspects of mental health:
There is also: www.nhs.uk/Pages/HomePage.aspx
And my own organisation to support partners: www.mypartnerisdepressed.com