We all feel down sometimes. It’s a perfectly normal response to life’s ups and downs (yes, even the ups can catch us by surprise with unexpected feelings), and it’s not always something to be overly concerned about in terms of mental health diagnosis. However, if these feelings are persistent, disruptive to your life, or seem to happen regardless of the situations you’re in, you could be on the depression spectrum. While the term is used a lot, we find a lot of people don’t have a clear idea of what depression is. Or, they think it only exists in one form, so can dismiss red flags in their own experience. So, what exactly is depression?
The difference between feeling low, and having depression
Typically, if you’re feeling low and there isn’t a deeper mental health issue factoring, you will be able to easily identify the source of your feeling. This could be minor, like a rough moment at work or day not going quite to plan. It can also be something more significant, like losing your job, or a break-up. It’s not the intensity of the ‘low’ feeling so much as it exists for a reason you can pinpoint, and also exists for what you might consider a reasonable amount of time. If, however, the feeling seemingly comes from nowhere, or feels disproportionate to the event, and it’s lasting longer than what feels right, it may be a sign of depression.
The symptoms of depression can differ from person to person, and there isn’t one way to experience it. But, common symptoms are:
- Disinterest in activities you once enjoyed, including just starting your day
- Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
- Likewise heightened appetite through comfort eating leading to weight gain
- Decreased energy or ongoing fatigue
- Consistent negative thoughts about yourself
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling distant from loved ones
- Having thoughts about self harming, suicide or death
Depressive moments to clinical depression
Depression, like a lot of mental health issues, is generally on a spectrum. It can range from being temporarily depressive, to having clinical depression. There are categories of depression, that fall into the following types:
- Major depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Cyclothymic disorder
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
You can read more information on these categories at Beyond Blue.
What should I do if I think I have depression?
The first step is acknowledging that you might have depression and will need some professional support. This may have come from becoming aware of it yourself, or having loved ones bring it up. Either way, it’s not the easiest of realisations to make, nor the easiest thing to begin working on. However, if you think you have depression, it’s important that you find qualified support as soon as possible.
Depression is treatable, but how depression is treated is based on the individual. It all depends on what you’re most comfortable with. You can approach a trusted GP, a psychologist, psychiatrist, naturopath, or one of the support services available online and over the phone.