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Feelings of depression are normal and can easily affect anybody. In fact, most people in their lifetime with feel depressed in one way or another. Feeling depressed is a normal reaction to stress, rejection or loss and so on. But ‘depression’ is not just simply feeling down.

Depression manifests itself in feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and generally not feeling good enough or worthy. This can last for many days or weeks, and can stunt productivity and activity in someone’s life because the feelings are so overwhelming and motivation-draining.  It may very well be clinical depression if you have these intense feelings of sadness that last for long periods of time – this is a treatable medical condition.

Do I have depression?

There is a widely known manual that used to diagnose mental disorders such as depression. According to this manual, depression occurs when you have a minimum of five of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:

  • Fatigue or complete lack of energy almost every day, for the majority of the day
  • Your mood is a depressed mood for the majority of the day, particularly in the morning or late at night
  • You experience feelings of worthlessness or guilt an abnormal amount, such as everyday day
  • Insomnia (being unable to get to sleep) or hypersomnia (over or excessive sleeping) every day or night.
  • Lack of concentration, motivation and passion surrounding things you have previously enjoyed.
  • Diminished interest in almost every activity you used to take pleasure in
  • Feeling restless or drained
  • Unexplained or unplanned weight loss or weight gain
  • Potentially, recurring thoughts of death and/or suicide (so not just fearing death)

It is clear to medical professionals that a key sign of depression is a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. For a formal diagnosis of clinical depression, these signs should be present for at least 2 weeks, almost daily.

In addition to this, the symptoms need to have stemmed from significant distress or impairment. They cannot be a result of something like substance abuse, for example, drug abuse. Likewise, it cannot be a result of a medical condition such as hypothyroidism.

What are the symptoms of depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who have clinical depression or depressive tendencies do not all face the same symptoms.  It all depends on the individual case as to how severe, how frequent and how long the symptoms they experience last for.

However, these are the most commonly recognised and text book symptoms of depression. As stated, you do not need to show all of these to be diagnosed with depression as every case is different: 

  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Waking up extremely early in the morning
  • Excessive time spent sleeping
  • Overwhelming pessimistic and negative feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Being abnormally irritable
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in typically enjoyed activities and social settings
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Excessive eating
  • Undereating and appetite loss
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety and feeling ‘empty’
  • Persistent pains and/or aches, such as headaches, cramps or problems with the digestive system that do not seem to be eased by any type of treatment
  • Thoughts of suicide and/or acting on these thoughts and attempting suicide

Depression in patterns

 It is possible for someone to experience symptoms of depression in patterns. For example, someone may experience depression with mania or hypomania which is a condition called bipolar disorder, formally known as manic depression, although occasionally still referred to as manic depression despite it being an old-fashioned term – it is now more of an umbrella term. Likewise, there is a syndrome of major depression that may occur in a seasonal pattern. This is commonly referred to as ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ or SAD.

Manic depression comes in several different forms. For instance, people who suffer with bipolar II disorder tend to have a minimum of one episode of experiencing major depression and at least one hypomanic episode.

A person suffering with unipolar depression have major depression exclusively, and never have a full hypomanic or manic episode.

Recently, a new category has been established which allows for the presence of some symptoms of mania or hypomania during a depressive episode in a person who theoretically hasn’t met the full criteria to be considered a someone who has bipolar disorder. This is called major depressive disorder with mixed features.  This new category thus suggests that the line between unipolar and bipolar disorder can sometimes a little bit hazy.

Depression in children and teenagers

There is obviously a huge difference between childhood sadness and clinical depression found in children and teenagers. Sadness is a natural feeling, especially in young people who are developing their emotions and going though changes.

Clinical depression can be found in children or teens if their sadness becomes persistent and they display some or all of the symptoms listed above. Furthermore, if your child or teen has disruptive behaviour which tends to interfere with normal social activities, their interests, their performance at school or even family life – this may be a sign that they are dealing with depression.

It is far more common for teens to experience depression than children, with a statistic of one in every 8 teens suffering with a form of depression, as opposed to one in in every 33 children. Since this is the case, talk to your doctor to see if a teenager is depressed. There is a plenty of effective treatment for teens out there, most commonly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Furthermore, more and more companies are, as with mental health in general taking increased notice in the effects such conditions can have on those suffering. For example, when it comes to short term loans such as payday or instalment loans, most providers of these financial products operate policies whereby they will not end to those that are overly vulnerable; for example if they are suffering badly from depression.

Mental health treatment may be covered by a health cash plan, that allows you to get up to 6 times what you pay e.g £100 in cover equals £600 towards appointments and smaller treatments. Furthermore, if you believe your depression to be as a result of stress at work, you may have access to company health insurance that will cover the cost of any appointments or treatments.