With increasing stressors and pressures in our daily lives, it is not surprising that many of us will experience some type of mental health condition in our lifetime. In Australia alone, it is estimated that 45 percent of the population will have experience of this at some time in their lives. Furthermore, approximately 1 million adults in Australia have depression and more than 2 million have anxiety issues, with both of these conditions being very much linked to one another.
Depression itself is a very common mental disorder which affects more than 3 million people of all ages globally, and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. A higher percentage of women are affected by depression than men, with a mental health study in 2016 showing 3 percent of males and 4.5 percent of females worldwide suffering with the condition (ourworldindata.org, 2018). In a single year in Australia, 3 in 100 males and 1 in 10 females aged 18-24 years will be living with a depressive disorder, as the prevalence of depression in young adults seems to be increasing. Furthermore, approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men will experience some level of depression in their lifetime. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of people living with depression worldwide increased by 18.4 percent, which is a reflection on both global population growth and a slight increase in the age groups at which depression is most prevalent.
Some common signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Appetite or weight changes
- Sleep changes
- Anger or irritability
- Loss of energy
- Reckless behavior
- Concentration problems
- Unexplained aches and pains
It is important to remember however, that many of these symptoms can be associated with the lows of normal life, but the stronger the symptoms and the longer they last, the more likely it is that you are experiencing depression.
There are different types of depression. Depending on the number and severity of symptoms, a depressive episode is catagorised as mild, moderate or severe.
The main types of depression are:
- Major depression
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Cyclothymic disorder
- Dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder
A key distinction is also made in people who do or do not have a history of manic episodes (episodes which involve irritable mood, over-activity, pressure of speech, decreased need for sleep and inflated self-esteem). Depression can be chronic (over a longer period of time) and the individual can experience relapses, especially if left untreated.
There are many influencing factors which are known to increase the chances of an individual experiencing a depressive disorder in their lifetime.
- Genetic vulnerability
- Stressful life events
- Chronic relationship stressors
- Negative family relationships
- Financial strain
- Loneliness and isolation
- Lack of social support
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Serious medical issues
- General low self- esteem and self-criticism
Depression is often left untreated due to many factors, with fewer than half of those affected worldwide (in many counties, less than 10 percent), receiving treatment. This is due to many factors, such as lack of resources, lack of trained healthcare providers, social stigma attached to mental disorders and inaccurate assessment, diagnosis and appropriate care provision. In Australia, depression is responsible for 13.5 percent of GP visits for mental health reasons and is the most commonly managed mental health condition for 12-24 year olds; however young people with depression often have co-existing symptoms, such as anxiety, which can make accurate and early diagnosis difficult. Furthermore, only 35 percent of Australians with depression actually access the treatment available.
Before seeking medical help, there are things you can do to help yourself if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression.
- Reaching out to close friends and family
- Accessing online therapies
- Physical activity and exercise
- Eating a mood-boosting diet
- Finding ways to engage with the world again, such as spending time with nature, taking up a hobby or caring for a new pet.
Making positive choices in your life, even when it feels difficult can make all the difference to helping overcome depression. Psychological therapy provided by a mental health professional is also proven to relieve the milder symptoms of depression, in combination with some of the above strategies. Psychological treatments include:
– Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
– Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
– Behaviour therapy
– Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
For moderate to more severe depression, medical treatments following an extended consultation with your doctor are more likely to be required, in combination with other treatment options. The main medical treatment for depression is antidepressant medication, which will often work alongside psychological treatments. Your doctor may also prescribe medical treatment for minor depression if psychological treatment is not alleviating symptoms. People with bipolar disorder or psychosis may require a combination of antidepressants, anti-psychotic drugs and mood stabilisers. It is important to recognise that everyone is different and some treatments may work better for some than others, but there is always the right help out there!