Broadly speaking, there are two types of depression, and this distinction is important to make because the treatments are different.
Situational Depression (also known as adjustment disorder) is a response to a specific difficult or traumatic life event.
Major depression is generally longer term and may have no cause. This may lead to frustration or guilt for the depressed person or their loved ones who have trouble empathising with the depression when there is no obvious reason for it. Trying to rationalise the cause of the depression may lead to blaming people or situations that have nothing to do with it, for example a wife thinking, “He won’t tell me why he is depressed, therefore it must be my fault.” As someone who doesn’t suffer with major depression it can be very hard to accept the fact that there is no one and nothing to blame and that doing so can make the situation worse.
The following symptoms may be caused by depression. They do not have to be present all day, or every day, for the diagnosis to be made.
- Not being able to enjoy most things, including things that used to be pleasurable.
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating.
- Feelings of guilt, as though you have let yourself or your family down.
- Hoplessness or despair, or a feeling thing won’t ever get any better.
- Difficulty in recognising your own achievements or your own self-worth.
- Lack of inspiration or pragmatc thinking; ie problem solving becomes very difficult.
- Intrusive thoughts of negative self-image and worth.
- Poor appetite or overeating.
- Insomnia, frequent waking, or oversleeping.
- Little motivation to do anything.
- Exhaustion at the thought of socialising with people.
- Excessive fatigue.
- Thoughts that you would be better off dead.
In extreme cases, major depression can cause psychosis. This means perceiving and believing things that are not physically there, or couldn’t feasibly be true (hallucinations and delusions). Please see the section on psychosis for more information.
Treatment options are out there, wherever in the world you are. Please do not suffer in silence, or feel like depression is “a normal part of life” or something you have to “put up with”. Depression is highly treatable and most people make a full recovery. There may be humps along the way – relapse is also very common – but keep at it and together we can beat the black dog.
- Medication can be very effective. Side-effects are easy to manage, and there are lots of different options to find one which suits you. They are not addictive. If you think you would benefit from treatment, please discuss medication with your doctor.
- Therapy – speak with your doctor or healthcare professional about the different psychological therapies available for depression.
- CheckPoint’s Self-Care Resources
- Lifestyle changes, including diet, exercise and socialising more often
If You’d Like to Know More…
- Information: Reachout Australia, beyondblue, The Black Dog Institute, SANE Australia and headspace.
- Online support groups: Blue Board or ARAFMI (Association of Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill).
Self help strategies via ReachOut Australia
There are a lot of places online which support you to use self-help strategies to manage depression symptoms. Check out beacon.anu.edu.au to compare different programs to find one that is right for you. Some suggestions are:
- MoodGYM – an online cognitive behavioural therapy program from the Australian National University designed to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.
- Helpguide.org, an international Not-for-profit organisation, provides tips for managing depression.
- The Black Dog Institute’s guide to self help strategies and alternative therapies.
- Just Ask Us – a government program that provides information on mental health, information on alcohol and other drugs, and self-help material.
- myCompass -an interactive self-help service from the Black Dog Institute. This is an online tool to help you track your moods and build resilience.
Real Monsters: Mental Illness creature designs by Toby Allen. http://www.