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Depression - What is it really?

By Rosie Hewitt
Rehabilitation and Delegated Claims Manager

So what are the signs of depression?

Depression can come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people continue to try to cope with their symptoms without realising they are ill. It can take a friend, work colleague, or family member to suggest something isn't quite right.

There are many signs – as well as psychological symptoms, there could also be physical and social ones.  Some symptoms that might indicate depression include:

  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month).

The degree of depression is often categorised by the level of impact the condition is having on everyday life:

  • Mild depression having some impact on your daily life 
  • Moderate depression having a significant impact on your daily life
  • Severe depression makes it almost impossible to get through daily life – a few people with severe depression may have psychotic symptoms and require hospitalisation.

Are Women at Higher Risk for Major Depression?

Almost twice as many women as men have major or clinical depression; hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage, and menopause, may increase the risk.

Other factors that boost the risk of clinical depression in women include increased stress at home or at work, balancing family life with career, and caring for an aging parent. Raising a child alone will also increase the risk.

What Are the Signs of Major Depression in Men?

Depression in men is significantly under reported. Men who suffer from clinical depression are less likely to seek help or even talk about their experience.

Signs of depression in men may include irritability, anger, or drug and alcohol abuse (substance abuse can also be a cause of depression rather than the result of it). Repressing their feelings can result in violent behaviour directed both inwardly and outwardly. It can also lead to an increase in illness, suicide, and violence.

Types of Depression

There are various types of depression which can include:

  • Postnatal depression - some women develop depression after having a baby. Postnatal depression is treated in similar ways to other forms of depression, with talking therapies and antidepressant medicines.
  • Bipolar disorder is also known as "manic depression". It's where there are spells of depression and excessively high mood (mania). The depression symptoms are similar to clinical depression, but the bouts of mania can include harmful behaviour such as gambling, going on spending sprees and having unsafe sex. 
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Also known as "winter depression", SAD is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern usually related to winter.

Suspicions of depression

If you suspect that you, a friend or colleague is suffering from depression the first step in managing the condition is to arrange to see your GP. The sooner the condition can be properly diagnosed the better it can be managed.