Meaning of Depression

Depression is a complex mental health challenge that can affect how individuals feel, think and act.

Depression can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities individuals once enjoyed. These feelings can result in emotional and physical challenges.

As one of the most common mental health challenges, depression affects around 1 in 6 adults in the UK. Additionally, depression is linked with other mental health challenges, including anxiety disorders.

Fortunately, depression is treatable. However, individuals require support, compassion, and empathy while they’re experiencing depression, and individuals can benefit tremendously from having a proper support system.

Types of Depression

There are many different types of depression.

Understanding the different types of depression is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Major Depressive Disorder

Individuals experiencing major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, will experience extreme feelings of depression most of the time.

Some of the more common depression symptoms of major depressive disorder include:

  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • A decline in interest/pleasure in once enjoyable activities
  • Sleeping challenges
  • Feelings of tiredness and lack of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Challenges with focus or decision-making
  • Experiencing thoughts of self-harm

It’s essential to understand that major depressive disorder affects different people in different ways. Not everybody has the same symptoms.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depressive disorder is a long-form of depression lasting 2 years or longer.

Some of the more common symptoms of persistent depressive disorder include:

  • Challenges with appetite (not eating or overeating)
  • Needing to sleep for longer than usual or too little
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Challenges with low self-esteem
  • Challenges with focus and concentration
  • Challenges with feeling hopeless, sad, and empty

Although persistent depressive disorder isn’t as severe as a major depressive episode, individuals might find it challenging to cope with the long-term symptoms.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can affect individuals during a specific period of the year – most commonly, the winter months.

During this time, individuals experience the following depression symptoms:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping for longer
  • Challenges with self-harming thoughts

Seasonal affective disorder usually goes away in the spring and summer. However, depending on the severity of the depression, a mental health professional might advise a more thorough treatment plan.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression occurs after delivery or a few days after giving birth.

Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Sadness
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Frequently crying
  • Fear of not being a good mother
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself
  • Thoughts of harming your baby
  • Hopelessness

Some women can start experiencing this type of depression during their pregnancy, which is referred to as peripartum depression.

It’s crucial to understand that postpartum depression is not in any way a sign of weakness, flaw, or fault. Pregnancy and delivery are complex, and women experiencing postpartum depression require immense support and empathy during this period.

High Functioning Depression

Individuals with high-functioning depression can function in various aspects of life, including work, relationships, and school, despite experiencing the symptoms of depression.

When experiencing high-functioning depression, the symptoms might be milder, or individuals learn how to cope or mask the symptoms of depression altogether.

depressive girl holding her head and sitting up in bed

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is a complex mental health challenge. Depending on whether an individual is experiencing mild depression, moderate depression, or severe depression, different intensities of symptoms can occur.

Some of the more common depression symptoms include:

Psychological symptoms:

  • Consistent challenges with sadness or low mood
  • Consistent challenges with feelings of hopelessness and helpless
  • Challenges with low self-esteem
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • Mood swings
  • Challenges with a lack of motivation or interest in usual activities
  • Challenges with decision-making
  • Challenges with feelings of anxiety, stress, or worry
  • Experiencing self-harming thoughts

Physical symptoms:

  • Speaking and moving more slowly than usual
  • Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
  • Unexplained pain
  • Experiencing a lack of energy
  • Loss of libido
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Challenges with sleep patterns

Social symptoms:

  • Sudden social withdrawal
  • Avoiding hobbies or once-beloved activities
  • Challenges with relationships at home, work or friends

Symptoms of Depression in Children

It’s crucial to note that just because a child appears to be sad or agitated doesn’t necessarily mean they have depression.

However, if feelings of sadness become persistent and start interfering with everyday activities such as schoolwork, friendships or family, it is advised to seek advice from a mental health professional.

Some of the most common depression symptoms in children include:

  • Challenges with sleeping more than usual
  • Challenges with focus and concentration
  • Social withdrawal from friends and family
  • Challenges with confidence and self-esteem
  • Signs of loss of appetite or eating more than usual
  • Challenges with relaxing
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt or worthless
  • Experiencing a sense of emptiness
  • Challenges with thoughts of self-harm
  • Signs of self-harming behaviour

Diagnosis and Assessment

A GP or healthcare professional specialising in mental health challenges can diagnose severe depression or any type of depression.

A mental health professional might evaluate an individual based on the following:

  • Physical exam: which consists of questions relating to overall health. This is because, in some cases, depression might be related to other underlying health challenges
  • Psychiatric evaluation: which consists of questions and conversations related to the symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns

During this time, individuals experiencing symptoms of depression require immense support, empathy, and compassion. The symptoms can affect individuals in various ways, and this process might be extremely stressful. Therefore, creating a supportive environment is essential.

depressed girl sitting on a bed next to a window

Treatment Options

Treating depression depends on the type of depression and its severity.

Talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), is one of the most common treatment options for depression. CBT can help individuals identify harmful beliefs or behavioural patterns and replace them with healthy ones.

CBT can also benefit individuals with the following:

  • Explore relationships and experiences, and develop positive interactions with others
  • Finding healthier ways to cope with challenging emotions
  • Identify challenges that contribute to the symptoms of depression
  • Regain control of their life and help overcome hopelessness and lack of motivation
  • Develop skills that help feelings of distress using healthy behaviours

In severe cases or cases where there are other mental health conditions alongside depression, a hospital or residential treatment might be required. There are other options, such as partial hospitalisation or day treatment programs, that may also benefit some individuals based on the severity of their depression.

Lastly, based on a proper healthcare evaluation, a mental health professional might prescribe medication to treat the symptoms of depression.

It’s crucial to know that although depression is a complex mental health challenge, and at times it might seem like recovery is unattainable – with the right support, perseverance, and proper treatment plan, the journey can end with full recovery.

Depression Support with Nurseline Community Services

At Nurseline Community Services, we understand the challenges young and older individuals with depression face. Our nurse-led team is available 24/7 for human-centred support, no matter how severe or complex. Having an outcome-based, tailored-made treatment plan is paramount for the recovery journey of any individual.

We put an individual’s needs, wants, and preferences at the centre of our treatment plans. Understanding that each individual is different and each recovery journey is unique is what helps us get positive outcomes.

Our goal is to enable individuals experiencing complex care needs to live fulfilled and high-quality lives within their communities. What’s more, we use positive behaviour support (PBS) strategies and focus on finding the strength of each individual.

If you or your loved one need support during your journey, contact our offices in Bristol, Birmingham, or Gloucester for further information.