Am I Depressed?

Depression has a way of creeping up on you. You feel like you’ve lost something but you’re not sure what. Then, one day, you realise you lost yourself.

If you’re not sure wether or not you’re struggling with depression then the following info can help you figure that out.

The symptoms of depression are:

  • low mood, feeling sad, irritable or angry,
  • having less energy to do certain things,
  • losing interest or enjoyment in activities you used to enjoy,
  • loss of concentration,
  • becoming tired more easily,
  • disturbed sleep and losing your appetite,
  • feeling less good about yourself (loss of self-confidence), or
  • feeling guilty or worthless.

You may also find that with low mood you:

  • feel less pleasure from things,
  • feel more agitated,
  • lose interest in sex,
  • find your thoughts and movements slow down, and
  • have thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

This is treatable. Here are the options to know about..

Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT)

Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT) is one way of treating mild to moderate depression. You learn CBT techniques online using a computer. You will go through the same type of session as you would if you were with a therapist. It can be helpful after you have finished talking therapies to stop your symptoms coming back.

‘Beating the Blues’ is one of the cCBT programmes you can get. They are free but you need to talk to your GP about it.

Antidepressants

Your doctor might offer you an antidepressant. You may need to try different types before you find one that works for you. If you do not want to take antidepressants, tell your doctor and you can discuss other options.

Antidepressants can have side effects and can affect other medicines you are taking. Your doctor will check if you have physical health conditions or if you take other medication.

It is important to talk to your doctor before you stop taking medication, because stopping suddenly can cause problems.

Exercise Therapy

Regular exercise can help with your mood if you struggle with depression. Some GP surgeries will put you in touch with local exercise schemes. This is sometimes called ‘exercise on prescription’ and can give you access to free or reduced cost programmes. 

Brain Simulation 

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure sometimes used to treat severe depression. In this treatment, an electrical current is briefly passed through your brain while you are under general anaesthetic. This means you are not awake during the procedure. You should only have ECT if you have severe depression, it is life-threatening and treatment is needed as soon as possible. Or you may be given ECT if no other treatments have worked.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

This treatment involves using a small battery-operated machine to pass a low current through your brain to stimulate activity. You are awake during the procedure, with daily sessions for several weeks. NICE state that there is not a lot of good evidence for how tDCS works for depression, but there are no major safety concerns. 

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)

TMS uses electromagnetic coils to deliver pulses of magnetic energy to specific parts of your brain. This stimulates the brain and may help to reduce depression and anxiety. You are awake during the procedure and can leave hospital the same day. If this is offered, you may have daily sessions for several weeks. NICE have examined rTMS and found that it is safe and effective enough to be offered on the NHS. 

Complementary or Alternative Therapies

Complementary therapies are treatments which are not part of mainstream medical care. They can include aromatherapy, herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage, meditation and yoga. These treatments may help improve your emotional wellbeing and may help with side effects.

Some things you can try NOW…

You can learn to manage your symptoms by looking after yourself. Self-care is how you take care of your diet, exercise, daily routine, relationships and how you are feeling. You will learn how to notice when you are becoming unwell and know what your triggers are.

Your diet

Our diet affects our physical health. Depending on what you eat you could develop problems like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In the same way, the things we eat may affect our moods and mental health.

Some people deal with their depression by eating high-fat and high-sugar foods. Also, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can make you crave sugary carbohydrates like cakes and biscuits.

To manage your diet you can:

  • eat regular meals,
  • avoid skipping meals,
  • eat a healthy balance of fat and reduce the amount of trans-fat you eat,
  • eat fruit, vegetables and wholegrains,
  • eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring or trout,
  • drink 6-8 glasses of water per day,
  • limit your caffeine in drinks such as tea, coffee or fizzy drinks, and
  • limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

The UK Chief Medical Officer recommends that to keep the risks from alcohol low, men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

If you have depression, making these changes may not have an instant impact on your mood. However, they can be important for long-term recovery.

Exercise

Exercising regularly can help your mood. You can exercise any way you like, so long as it safely increases your heart rate and makes you breathe faster. Exercise can also help if you have problems sleeping. Getting proper sleep may be important for your mental health.

How much you can do depends on your age, physical health and fitness. If you do not exercise already, start with small amounts and fit this into your daily routine. You can then slowly increase the amount you do. This approach may help with your motivation.

There are programmes like the NHS’s Couch to 5KM where they gradually help you go from doing no exercise to walking or jogging for 5 kilometres. Some other ideas are listed below.

  • Going for a walk: You could get a pedometer or an app that counts your steps. Slowly challenge yourself to walk more steps and reach a goal.
  • Cycling: Make sure you wear a helmet and high visibility vests or chest strap. Stick to quiet roads if you aren’t confident on a bike.
  • Gardening: There may be a local NHS or charitable gardening scheme in your area. Ask your GP, volunteering services or social services.
  • Projects: You can check your area on ‘The Conversation Volunteers’ website to see if there are any projects in your area. Their details are in the ‘Useful Contacts’ section.
  • Jogging: Try jogging around the block to start with. Then slowly increase the amount of time you jog for, or the distance you go.
  • Playing a sport: Try speaking to friends or family to see if they will join you in a sport. Or join a local club. You could also look at individual sports.
  • Gym: As well as indoor gyms, there are free ‘green gyms’ all across the country. See ‘The Conversation Volunteers’ website for more details.
  • Housework: Doing housework in an active way can be good exercise.

Some mental health medication can cause problems with weight gain. Exercise could also help you manage this. 

You should speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about gaining weight due to medication. You should also speak to your doctor if you have any concerns before starting to exercise.