Depression is an illness that affects more than 350 million people of all ages around the globe. It is the leading cause of disability in the world today and it transcends all ethnic groups and backgrounds. Depression occurs in 1 in 10 adults of the population in Britain at any one time. Post-natal depression affects up to 15% of post-partum women.
Only 20% of people suffering from depression actually go to their doctor with an emotional problem. The vast majority of those complain of nonspecific symptoms such as headache, tiredness or vague muscle or abdominal pains. Depression is linked to many other physical illnesses (heart conditions, accidents, thyroid problems, chronic pain etc) as well psychiatric illnesses (schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder).
How depression works
If you suffer from depression or you know someone that does, you will know that depression can affect both the body and mind. It can affect your emotions, thoughts and actions and it can take over and stop you from getting help. At Spire Sussex Hospital, Dr Nik Gkampranis, Consultant Psychiatrist, often sees people suffering from depression who lack the ability to feel pleasure, drive or interest.
Symptoms of depression and anxiety can overlap. The brain may become continuously preoccupied by intrusive thoughts and a lack of motivation, in combination with lack of energy, may reduce your ability to seek help. Negative thoughts can lead you to think that there is no hope, no future, no treatment and that nobody that can help and you may push people away that want to help you. You may also be reluctant to meet new people. Isolation from others will increase negative feelings and reduce your openness to others helping you.
Guilt can make depression worse. You may feel guilty about things that previously did not bother you or are of a trivial nature. Guilty feelings can be very consuming of your energy, and intrude and affect your sleep and appetite, taking away your attention and concentration. It is difficult to remember things when your mind is occupied by stressful thoughts.
As the brain gets more tired other areas of the body may get affected and symptoms of psychosis may start.
Suicide results in an estimated 1 million deaths every year worldwide and in 2011 there were more than 6000 suicides in the UK, depression playing a big part in this.
It remains the most common cause of death in men under the age of 35. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom and can improve and disappear when you treat the underlying depression.
There are effective treatments for depression. This may involve therapy, support, medication and self help.
When should I seek help?
- When your feelings of depression are worse than usual and don't seem to get any better.
- When your feelings of depression affect your work, interests and feelings towards your family and friends.
- If you find yourself feeling that life is not worth living, or that other people would be better off without you.
- IIf your friends and family have noticed a difference in you and have been worried about you.
It may be enough to talk things over with a relative or friend. If this doesn't help, you should consider talking to your GP or a Psychiatrist.
Some people have difficulty recognising depression as an illness and they may consider it as a sign of weakness although they might have a different attitude towards physical illness like diabetes or a broken leg. Unfortunately the stigma surrounding mental illness and depression still exists in our society today and I hope that "depression awareness week" will contribute positively in reducing the stigma bring depression into the forefront.
If you would like to find out more about our psychiatry services, please call 01424 757455.
This has been written by Dr Nik Gkampranis, Consultant Psychiatrist, Consultant Forensic Medical Examiner.