What is Depression? A common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.

The Causes Depression can happen suddenly as a result of physical illness, experiences dating back to childhood, unemployment, bereavement, family problems or other life-changing events. Examples of chronic illnesses linked to depression include heart disease, back pain and cancer. Pituitary damage, a treatable condition which frequently follows head injuries, may also lead to depression. Sometimes, there may be no clear reason for your depression but, whatever the original cause, identifying what may affect how you feel and the things that are likely to trigger depression is an important first step.

The Signs and Symptoms

If you experience four or more of these symptoms for most of the day – every day – for more than two weeks, you should seek help from your GP.

Managing Anxiety Around half of those people who experience depression will also experience anxiety. Taking steps to manage your anxiety can help give you the mental space to begin to deal with your depression. Talking about what is making you anxious, as well as a healthy diet and exercising, will all help you to control your anxiety. Some people, especially those with mild depression, find that relaxation techniques such as massage and yoga help them to manage their anxiety.

Getting Help The first step in getting treatment will normally be to visit your GP practice.They will ask you a number of questions about how your depression is affecting you mentally and physically.The first appointment can feel difficult so it might be helpful if you write down what you have been experiencing before you go. Make a note of any questions or worries you might have. Some people find it helpful to take a friend or family member. It is important that you and your doctor agree how best to treat your problems. Being as open as you can about your symptoms and how they are affecting you will really help. Your GP may suggest you see a specialist such as a mental health nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist. For mild depression, medication is not recommended because the risks could outweigh the benefits. Your GP has guidelines for treating depression and these recommend ‘watchful waiting’ initially, to see if the depression goes away. Using some of the self-help techniques listed above can help and your GP surgery can offer you support.

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