We all experience periods of sadness or low mood, but depression goes beyond these fleeting emotions. Depression is a mental health condition that can impact every aspect of life.
Depression can often be challenging to identify, given the stigma and confusion surrounding the definition of the term. Regardless, depression affects many people across Scotland. According to the Scottish Health Survey 2022, 10% of Scottish adults reported two or more symptoms of depression.
When left untreated however, it can lead to severe consequences. Depression can affect personal relationships and work or even cause suicidal thoughts. Open conversations and education about depression are crucial to creating a supportive community that encourages early intervention and effective management.
Common myths about depression
It is just a prolonged period of sadness
Depression is a complex mental health condition, not just mere sadness. A depressive episode can potentially persist for weeks, months or even years and includes various emotional, cognitive, psychological and physical symptoms.
People with depression are always sad
Depression can also manifest as irritability, emptiness, tension or a general lack of interest in activities once enjoyed. Some may mask their symptoms and hide behind a smile to convince other people that they are happy.
People with depression can ‘snap out of it’ if they try hard enough
Depression is not a sign of weakness or a condition that can be overcome by willpower alone. Whilst individuals can adopt coping strategies, seeking professional support is crucial for effective management.
Causes of depression are often multifactorial, involving a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Here are some common factors that may contribute to the development of depression:
Genetic factors: Family history may increase the risk of developing depression.
Brain chemistry imbalances: Imbalances in neurotransmitters can contribute to depression, which is why people take antidepressants.
Physical health issues: Chronic illnesses and overdosing on medication (even antidepressants) can be linked to depression.
The symptoms of depression vary among individuals and may include:
- Persistent sadness or low mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia or hypersomnia)
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or experiencing memory issues
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Irritability, impatience or restlessness
- Physical symptoms like aches or pains, headaches, digestive problems or other physical discomfort without a clear cause
- Withdrawing from social activities with friends and family.
How is depression different from sadness?
Depression and sadness differ in duration, intensity and underlying causes. Whilst sadness is a normal and temporary emotional response to specific events (e.g., failure, loss), depression is a mental health disorder marked by persistent, intense feelings of hopelessness and a lack of interest in daily activities.
For instance, the sadness following failing an exam may be distressing but tends to diminish over time as individuals cope. In contrast, depression often persists for an extended period without a clear external trigger, impacting overall functioning. Recognising these distinctions is crucial for understanding the importance of seeking professional help if persistent and severe depressive symptoms arise.
What are the different types of depression?
Depression comes in different forms, each presenting with distinct symptoms. The most common ones in the UK are:
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
Often referred to as clinical depression, MDD involves persistent and severe symptoms that interfere with daily life. It includes a combination of emotional, cognitive and physical symptoms.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)
Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression characterized by a milder but long-lasting low mood. Symptoms persist for at least two years for adults (one year for children and young people).
Occurring after childbirth, postpartum depression involves intense feelings of sadness, anxiety and exhaustion. It can affect the ability to care for oneself and the newborn. Can affect both parents.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is a type of depression that occurs at specific times of the year, usually in the winter months when there is less sunlight.
“The thought of killing myself, I don’t think it will ever go away and I’m always honest about that with anyone. It is still there, but it’s not as bad as before. I just needed to get all of this out of my head.
“I am a lot better. I’m better because I know if I’m in crisis and see that my anxiety and depression are hitting the roof, I can voice note Sheila and ask her to see her. She would voice note me back and arrange a meeting. Knowing I can get support from Sheila and Mind Space is changing a lot. I always feel welcomed here.”
Althea, who battled depression, shares her journey of resilience with Change Mental Health. Read more about her story here.
I have been diagnosed with depression; how do I manage it?
Effectively managing depression involves a combination of self-care strategies and seeking professional support. Identifying triggers, establishing routines and incorporating healthy lifestyle choices are crucial. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, can help alleviate stress.
Setting realistic goals, breaking tasks into smaller steps and practising self-compassion contribute to a more manageable mindset. Connecting with a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counsellor, allows for healthy coping strategies and provides a supportive space to explore and address underlying issues contributing to depression.
What kind of therapy is usually used for depression?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a widely used and evidence-based therapy for depression. It focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviours to develop healthier coping mechanisms.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is another effective therapeutic approach, particularly for individuals dealing with intense emotions and interpersonal difficulties. It’s like CBT, but with a stronger focus on regulating your emotions rather than changing your thought processes.
In many cases, a combination of therapies like CBT, DBT and medication may be recommended for optimal results.
How do I support someone with depression?
Supporting a person with depression requires empathy, patience and open communication. Listening without judgment and validating their feelings is essential. Encourage them to share their experiences and feelings while offering reassurance and understanding.
Assist in identifying coping mechanisms and encourage the practice of self-care. Be mindful of their triggers and help create a supportive environment. If appropriate, accompany them to therapy sessions or medical appointments. Importantly, avoid dismissing or trivialising their concerns. Your presence, understanding and encouragement can play a significant role in their journey towards managing depression. If their symptoms are severe, encourage them to seek professional help. You can check the NHS website for more information about this.
Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.
Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.