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Sometimes we have tough days and that's okay. But having a tough month, or a tough year, can be a sign of something more serious. Here we look at depression and the treatment available.

What is depression?

Depression is a complex psychological health problem that affects thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

It is about more than just feeling low; it is a serious medical condition that can affect all aspects of one’s life. Research shows that 17% of adults in the UK experience some form of depression.

As with any condition, there is help and relief available. Different forms of depression include postpartum depression, melancholia, dysthymia, unipolar depression and recurrent depression.

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Why do people get depressed?

There is rarely one cause of depression. Reasons for depression include losses. It could be the loss of people in your life or the loss of abilities you used to have. It can also be a kind of unexplored loss. Some people feel that something is missing from their lives. As if they have lost something that they never really had in their life but that they somehow feel they should have had, perhaps when they were a child.

Depression can also have physical explanations. Perhaps there is a substance in the body that has low levels or a person’s nervous system has been under severe stress for a long period of time. That said, there are many different explanations for why people can become depressed. If you have an undefined feeling of discomfort or depression, do not hesitate to seek out a professional therapist to help you. You don’t have to struggle alone.

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You are not alone

Approximately 4-10% of the people in the UK will experience some form of depression in their lifetime. That is a lot of people but, on a positive note, society is becoming more aware and vigilant about depression. Help and care is available for sufferers of depression, and it is improving all the time.

Identifying symptoms and signs

  • Sadness and loss of interest in activities
  • Apathy
  • Sleep problems or excess sleep
  • Physical symptoms such as fatigue or pain
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of zest for life

Do you feel the workload is too much? Perhaps you are withdrawing socially and feel constantly tired? Do you no longer feel like doing the things you used to enjoy doing? If so, it is important not to ignore these signs either, as they may be indications of an underlying depression.

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Effective therapies

There are various treatment options for dealing with depression. Psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and sometimes medication is required. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has proven to be an effective treatment method, especially when combined with medications such as antidepressants. By talking to a professional therapist or psychologist, you can identify the underlying causes of your depression and work on concrete strategies to improve your well-being.

We make the difficult easier

Talking about mental illness is often taboo, but seeking help is an important step in improving your quality of life. Benefits include improved mental health, better work ability and improved relationships. Some people mistakenly believe therapy is a sign of weakness or that it is unnecessary. The truth is that it takes strength to seek help and that therapy is a proven method for dealing with mental health problems.

Dealing with depression is not easy, but is a necessary step to improve your quality of life.

If you or someone you know has acute symptoms or is in an emergency situation, call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk immediately.

12 frequently asked questions about depression

What is depression?

Depression is a mental illness that affects your mood, thoughts and behaviour. Symptoms vary but often include sadness, fatigue and lack of interest in activities.

What are the most common symptoms of depression?

The most common symptoms include persistent sadness, lack of energy, sleep problems and a reduced appetite. Consultation with a psychologist or therapist can help make a diagnosis.

How is depression diagnosed?

Diagnosing depression is usually done through interviews and questionnaires that assess your mental well-being. Sometimes blood tests may also be taken to rule out other medical causes.

Are there different types of depression?

Yes, there are several types, including chronic depression, seasonal depression and bipolar disorder. Each type has its own specific treatment methods and symptoms.

How is depression treated?

Treatment options vary but often include a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common form of psychological treatment.

How long does depression treatment last?

The length of treatment can vary depending on the severity and individual needs. Some people can experience relief within a few weeks, while others need long-term treatment.

Is depression hereditary?

Genetics can play a role in depression, but it is usually a combination of several factors such as life events and personal circumstances that contribute to the illness.

Can exercise help with depression?

Yes, regular physical activity has been shown to improve mood and mental health. But it should not replace professional care and medication.

What are the risk factors for depression?

Stress, trauma, and personal adversity are common risk factors. Other medical conditions such as heart problems or diabetes can also increase the risk of depression.

Is depression more common in men or women?

Depression is more common in women, but men are less likely to seek help. Symptoms may also differ between the sexes.

How does depression affect relationships?

Depression can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships and can lead to social isolation. Couples therapy or family counselling can be helpful.

Where can I get help?

If you experience symptoms of depression, it is important to seek professional help. Our psychologists and therapists are available for online consultations at your convenience.

Steps to manage depression through therapy

Seeking help for depression is a big step, and it is normal to feel unsure or tense about the upcoming process. Deciding to take control of your mental health is a positive thing. Here is an overview of the steps usually included in therapy to manage and regulate depression.

Step 1: Diagnostic evaluation

What this means: The first meeting with your psychologist or therapist is usually a diagnostic evaluation where you review your mental and physical health.
What to expect: Expect questions about your life situation, feelings, thought patterns, and behaviours.

Step 2: Goal setting

What it means: You and your therapist set specific goals for therapy.
What to expect: Discussion about which areas of your life are most affected by your depression and how you would like to change them.

Step 3: Choosing a form of therapy

What it means: Depending on your situation and goals, different forms of therapy may be more or less appropriate.
What to expect: Your therapist will recommend a form of therapy, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or psychodynamic therapy.

Step 4: Treatment

What it means: This begins the actual treatment phase, where you start working towards the goals you’ve set.
What to expect: Talk therapy, exercises, and perhaps homework assignments aimed at giving you tools to manage and regulate your depression.

Step 5: Follow-up and evaluation

What it means: After a certain period of time, a follow-up is done to see how well the therapy is working.
What to expect: If necessary, the treatment plan can be adjusted or renewed.

Step 6: Closing and looking ahead

What it means: As therapy comes to an end, it’s time to reflect on progress and plan for the future.
What to expect: Talk about how you can use the tools and strategies you’ve learned going forward in life.

If you or someone close to you is seeking professional help for depression, do not hesitate to book an online session with one of our qualified psychologists or therapists.

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Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.