Practical Advice - Coping with Depression
Depression is a word which is often used to describe feeling sad, miserable or fed up. Usually this feeling passes when our circumstances change or our mood lifts. Sometimes, the feeling of depression can be so severe that we do not want to get up in the morning and life does not seem worth living. Depression of this degree is an illness and usually requires medical intervention.
The causes of depression can sometimes be obvious e.g. bereavement, loss of a job, illness, relationship breakdown etc. Often, depression caused by factors such as these lifts as the problems are resolved or come to terms with.
Other causes of depression are less obvious e.g. low self esteem, overwork, unresolved experiences from childhood, and it is often these causes which may require medical and therapeutic intervention.
- feelings of unhappiness which won’t go away
- loss of interest in life
- everything too much effort
- interrupted sleep patterns
- loss of appetite (or sometimes over-eating)
- hard to make decisions
- excessive tiredness
- feeling inadequate and hopeless
- going off sex
- feeling worse at a particular time of day, often a.m.
- loss of self confidence
- suicidal feelings
If you feel that your depression is not going to pass without help, it is important that you see your G.P. Depending on how severe your symptoms are, your Doctor may recommend some form of talking therapy (counselling or psychotherapy), anti-depressant tablets, or both.
Counselling, of course, is available here at the University and many people who are feeling depressed find it very helpful simply taking about their feelings in a safe, confidential and neutral environment. It may also be useful to explore some of the reasons behind the depression.
Some people find that counselling really helps them to discover a way out of their depressive feelings and do not need medication.
Anti-depressants are prescribed if your depression has continued for some time and is severe. Some people are understandably reluctant to take medication which they fear may be addictive and longstanding.
In fact, unlike tranquillisers, anti-depressants are not addictive and do not have to be taken for long periods of time. They are very useful in lifting one’s mood sufficiently to allow the person to make changes in their life and to begin to see a way forward. It is often then that counselling can be really effective as the person is able to think more clearly.
Anti-depressants have a build-up effect and it may be two weeks or more before their full impact is felt. As with most medication, there may be mild side-effects such as a dry mouth and slight drowsiness. These usually wear off after a time, but if you find that the side-effects outweigh the benefits, you should report this to your G.P. Not all tablets suit everyone, and it may be that a different brand of anti-depressant may be more suitable for you.
Self Help Measures
- Depression can often drain us of any motivation, making it hard to do anything to help ourselves. However, inactivity and isolation can make the depression worse, and so it is important to try and avoid falling into this cycle.
- Although getting up in the morning is often difficult, try and set yourself a regular time for getting up and going to bed.
- Set yourself achievable tasks for the day, no matter how small e.g. phoning a friend, going for a walk. Write these down if necessary and tick them off as you do them. Allow yourself to feel a sense of achievement.
- Try not to bottle things up. Talk to a friend, relative or counsellor about your feelings.
- Try and do some form of physical exercise - even a brisk walk can lift the spirits. It will also make you physically fitter, may help you sleep better and help you feel that you are achieving something.
- Eat regularly and healthily.
- Keep alcohol at a low level. It may temporarily improve your mood, but ultimately you will feel worse as alcohol is a depressant.
- Do not worry about lack of sleep. Insomnia is normal with depression. Try and enjoy the sensation of being warm and relaxed and don’t try to force sleep.
- Look after yourself physically and emotionally. Allow yourself treats and create things to look forward to. Remind yourself that depression is common and usually passes with time and proper treatment.
Useful Phone numbers
0171 633 9929
Association for Post-Natal Illness
0171 386 0868
The British Association for Counselling
National Helpline 0345 909099