Most people will feel sad, fed up or blue at some point in their life but serious depression is a different matter. For many sufferers, the symptoms can affect their ability to cope with day-to-day life, cause problems with relationships and at work, and, in severe cases, lead to a persistent feeling of hopelessness, despair and even thoughts of suicide.
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If you are concerned either for yourself or someone you know, here are the key symptoms to look out for and what you can do to get help.
Common symptoms of depression
Depression affects different people in different ways but there are several common symptoms that could point to a need for help.
Tiredness and a lack of energy, loss of self-confidence and feelings of worthlessness as well as persistent sadness are often experienced by sufferers. Difficulty concentrating or functioning at work or school may indicate a problem while trouble sleeping, loss of appetite and a lack of sex drive are also signs, while some may develop physical symptoms such as aches and pains. For others, depression may lead to thoughts of suicide and death or even self harm.
Though many of us will have experienced one or more of these symptoms at various times, the Depression Alliance advises that if you have experienced four or more of the above for much of the day and for over two weeks, it is time to seek help and advice.
There are now a variety of treatments for depression available and what works for one person may not for another. The first step to getting help is to tell someone how you feel. It may begin with talking to someone you know, a close family member or friend, or you may find it easier to talk to someone who has no connection to you. Helplines such as the Samaritans (08457 909090) or Saneline (0845 767 8000) can offer advice, support or even just a sympathetic ear.
Alternatively you may prefer to discuss the problem with your GP, who can then prescribe medication or refer to you counselling services or support groups in your local area.
Excellent online resources are also available at www.depressionalliance.org and www.mind.org.uk, both of which provide information and advice on how to cope.
From 22nd to 28th April this year, the Depression Alliance will be organising a series of fund-raising events as part of Depression Awareness Week in a bid to raise public awareness of the serious issues faced by those living with depression, thereby helping to end the stigma associated with the problem.
If you would like to get involved, organise your own event or tell your story, visit www.depressionalliance.org for more information.