Coping with depression

Maya Driver

Depression is more common than you might think. Around 1 in 7 adults can suffer from depression severe enough to require some kind of treatment. Recognising that the symptoms you have are caused by depression and being able to seek help can often be a challenge.

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It can often be difficult to recognise that you are depressed, especially if people around you simply tell you to 'cheer up'. Symptoms of depression can include both mental and physical ones. As well as feeling down, sufferers may experience low self-esteem, a lack of interest in their usual activities, a feeling of isolation, anxiety, changes in weight, lack of appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, avoiding social situations and various other symptoms too. For a more comprehensive list, check out the NHS's website - you will also find advice there.

If you think you may be depressed, speak to your GP who can refer you to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and prescribe medications such as selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

SSRIs are antidepressants that control a substance in your brain called seratonin which can help to lift your mood. The medication can take a few weeks before any effects are noticed and may also require some time to be weaned off them to prevent withdrawals. They are best used in conjunction with therapy since they may alleviate the symptoms but if the cause of the depression still exists, it may return in the future.

CBT is a term applied to a number of therapies that aim to combat negative thought patterns and behaviours that a person has developed and which contribute to their illness. Through CBT, sufferers can learn to recognise and break these patterns that reinforce their depressive attitudes. It can be a long process taking several weeks or months but its effects are long-term rather than the short-term effects of medication.

As well as these treatments, it helps to have people around you who understand and are supportive. If friends and family find it difficult to understand mental illness, there are many support groups and forums that sufferers can turn to. The main thing to remember is that depression is an illness and it can get better. Just take it one day at a time.