Depression affects thinking through negative thoughts, as well as the body as a whole. Physical symptoms of depression may include fatigue, headaches, body aches and pains, and through behaviour such as social withdrawal. Common emotions associated with depression include feeling sad, bleak, hopeless or guilty.
Depression: Symptoms and Treatment
People with depression nearly always have some of the following symptoms:
- Sleep disturbance, either difficulty falling asleep, early morning waking or over-sleeping
- Chronic tiredness
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies or family
- Reduced sex drive
- Change in appetite, either reduced appetite or over-eating
- Loss of self-esteem, such as feeling a failure
- Irritability and bad temper
- Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
- Thoughts that life is not worth living
Psychological and medication based therapies are the two main forms of treatment for depression.
Psychological therapy provides a supportive environment for a person to work through difficulties. Psychologists help by providing skills and strategies to change negative thinking patterns and behaviours that contribute to depression and to lessen underlying sensitivity to future episodes of depression.
A defining feature of clinical depression is a change in the balance of chemicals in the brain that affects mood. When some specific chemicals in the brain are very low or lacking, this can contribute to feelings of low mood, sadness and fatigue. Antidepressant medications help to restore the brain’s chemical balance to improve mood.
Sometimes, a combination of antidepressant medication and psychological treatment is needed to treat depression effectively. Antidepressant medication helps lift people’s mood and increases their responsiveness to psychological therapy.
Depression is the fourth leading cause of disease burden in Australia and a leading cause of suicide and self-inflicted injury
Depression affects men differently from women. Depression affects about one in six men. As men are socialised into being strong and repressing their feelings, they are more likely to deny having problems and will focus on their physical symptoms rather than their feelings. Men also tend not to seek treatment and so, they are more likely than women to take their own lives.
Common situations that lead to male depression include relationship problems, becoming a new father when his partner is depressed or estranged, unemployment, work stress or retirement, health problems, substance abuse and social isolation.
If you experience some or most of the symptoms of depression, it is vital to seek treatment. Careful medical and psychological evaluation is needed to determine the best treatment.
Marcus Andrews is the founder and director of Life Supports, which was established in 2002. He has extensive professional experience working as a counsellor and family therapist across a broad range of issues. The core component of his role at Life Supports involves the supervision of other counsellors, including secondary consultations. Marcus has worked in many sectors, including private, government, non-profit, health, forensic and community practice.