Depression - An information leaflet
These are the thoughts of two people who are depressed:
? "I feel so alone, I never see my friends now, I guess they have
dropped me. They probably don't like me - who would? There is
no point in making any effort it doesn't pay off … I just hate
? "I feel like crying all the time, I am so tired and can't get
interested in anything. In fact I just don't even get started with the
jobs I should be doing, I can't even do basic things that seem so
easy to other people ..."
If you are depressed, you may have had similar thoughts yourself.
Depression is a very common problem and many people feel low or
down in the dumps at times. This is often because of life stresses
such as bereavement, money or housing problems or difficulties in
relationships, but for some people the problem becomes much
worse and normal life itself becomes difficult.
How can this leaflet help me?
At this point you may feel that nothing can be done to help. But
there are things that you can do yourself which will make a
difference and there are also other places where you can get help if the depression does not seem to be getting any better.
This leaflet aims to tell you more about depression, how to
overcome it and what help may be available.
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What is depression?
Depression is a very common problem. Very many adults will at some time experience symptoms of depression. In its mildest forms depression does not stop you from leading a normal life, but the most severe depression can be life threatening, with thoughts of death and suicide.
These are some of the signs or symptoms that you may experience if you are depressed.
Emotions or feelings
? Feeling sad, guilty, upset, numb or despairing. ? Losing interest and enjoyment in things. ? Crying a lot or feeling unable to cry.
? Feeling alone even if you are in company.
Physical or bodily signs
? Sleep problems, especially waking early or interrupted sleep. ? Feeling worse at a particular time of the day (usually morning). ? Changes in appetite, eating and weight.
? Losing confidence in yourself.
? Expecting the worst and having negative or gloomy thoughts. ? Thinking that everything seems hopeless. ? Thoughts of suicide.
? Thinking you hate yourself.
? Poor memory or concentration.
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How these feelings, physical signs and thoughts may affect your life
? You may find it difficult to do even simple things. ? You stop doing your normal activities.
? You cut yourself off from other people.
? You may become inactive, just doing nothing for long periods of
? You may feel that you have to double check everything.
Of course not everyone who is depressed has all of these symptoms. And even if you are not seriously depressed, it is usual to feel some of these things from time to time. This is particularly true if you have recently suffered a loss and especially if someone close has died. When these symptoms are part of a normal reaction to loss or distressing events they should resolve with time. Most people find it helpful to talk over these feelings with somebody who cares. If these feelings are very strong, however, or continue for some time, then a depression may have developed. When this happens you need to take steps to help yourself and/or seek help from others.
What causes depression?
No single cause for depression has been found. Usually there is more than one reason and this differs from person to person, but sometimes it can happen without any obvious reason.
As we have already mentioned, distressing events can make someone start to feel depressed and at times this may turn into a more serious depression from which it is difficult to emerge.
Circumstances can play a part. So, being alone, having to live on a very low income, physical illness and unemployment can all contribute. Sometimes several different factors cause depression. At times, even events that you might think of as good and positive, such as getting married, or starting a new job can be stressful enough to cause depression.
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Having a baby can also lead to a post natal depression for one in ten women.
Different people will react to depression in different ways and although some may be sad and withdrawn, some show their distress in other ways, such as heavy drinking or irritability.
One in ten people who have a severe depression may also have periods where they are excited, with uncontrolled behaviour. This is known as manic depression and it affects equal numbers of men and women.
Are some people more likely to become
depressed than others?
Some people seem to be more vulnerable than others to becoming depressed. This may be because of body make up (including body chemistry) or because of early life experiences and family influences. Some people may be more inclined to "look on the gloomy side" of life in general, and this may make them more likely to develop a depression.
How can I help myself to feel better?
Even if you have a doctor or mental health worker involved in your treatment there are things you can do to help yourself in overcoming depression.
1. Do something active
Physical activity is particularly helpful. Walk, run, cycle, skip; anything which begins to increase your activity can help to improve how you feel. Plan 15 or 20 minutes of activity every day, or every other day to begin with. This kind of physical activity can actually begin to make you feel less tired.
Find something that interests you and spend some time on it. Plan to focus on things you usually enjoy and build some time into each day for these activities. You might find it helpful to take up a new
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interest. Some people find that creative activities such as painting, writing poetry or playing music that helps them to express their feelings, can help them to feel better.
Make a small start on tasks that you may have been avoiding, break big tasks down into smaller stages and tackle these one by one. For example, there might be jobs in the house or the garden that really need to be done, but you have been putting off doing them. If that is the case begin on day one by tackling just one small area. This way, by not taking on too much you are more likely to achieve your goal and that will make you feel good.
2. Talk to others
Try and tell those close to you how you are feeling. They may be able to listen and help you to think things through. Having a cry can help to relieve tension and let things move on. You may be surprised to find those you talk to have felt depressed themselves at some time and can understand how you feel.
3. Look after yourself
Resist the temptation to cope with your depression by drinking alcohol, misusing medication or turning to illegal drugs. These may give some immediate relief but quite soon create further health and psychological problems for you to cope with.
Eat well; a good diet can help to keep you in good health so recovery is easier.
Try and 'treat' yourself to things you normally enjoy.
4. Challenging negative thinking
Don't allow gloomy thoughts to go unchallenged. When someone is experiencing depression they often tend to think and expect the worst of themselves, their life and the future. Don't just accept these thoughts try to:
? identify when your mood is very low;
? jot down the unpleasant thoughts you are having during that time;
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? try and counter these thoughts by writing down arguments
against them. Imagine what you would say to a friend if they had
such negative thoughts about themselves;
? try and keep a diary of things you have enjoyed or achieved
during the week. This can help you to concentrate on the good
things rather than the bad things in your life.
What treatment is available for depression?
Most people are treated for depression by their family doctor. The
doctor may suggest a talking treatment or antidepressant tablets
The doctor may refer you to a mental health worker. This could be a psychiatrist (a medically qualified doctor who specialises in mental health), or it may be to a counsellor, community psychiatric nurse, psychologist or other mental health worker.
The talking treatments are usually counselling or therapy. These
will help you understand your own difficulties and begin to work out ways of overcoming depression. "Cognitive therapy" is one kind of
therapy that is often used. It can help people to challenge their
negative thinking and get on with their lives.
Whatever type of therapy is used, it will usually take a little time before you begin to feel the benefits, but treatment of this kind has helped many people and can be very effective.
Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed by your family doctor
or psychiatrist. They have been shown to be helpful for many
people suffering from depression.
Antidepressants work on the chemicals in the brain to make you
feel less depressed. They are not addictive and once you begin to
feel better, usually after quite a few months, you can plan, with your doctor, to stop taking them. This should not cause you any difficulty and your doctor will gradually adjust and reduce the dose.
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When you begin a course of antidepressants it is important to remember that they do not work immediately. It will take 2-4 weeks before they take effect and you need to keep taking them regularly to feel the benefit. They can have some side effects at first but these are usually quite mild and will generally wear off as treatment continues. Your doctor or pharmacist will advise you about this. Although people often start to feel better within 2-4 weeks of taking antidepressants it is important to keep taking them for as long as your doctor advises. This helps stop the depression coming back.
If you are taking antidepressants it is important to consult your doctor before taking any other tablets, drugs or alcohol.
Where can I find help if I am depressed?
If you think you may be depressed, your GP is the best person to talk to in the first instance. They will have information about local services which may be able to help.
The following people will also have information about these services.
? Your practice nurse or health visitor, who is based at your GP
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Some useful books which you may like to borrow
from your local library:
? Atkinson, Sue (2005)
Climbing out of depression Lion Hudson plc. ISBN:
? Burns, David (2000)
Feeling good: the new mood therapy Avon Books. ISBN:
? Gilbert, Paul (2000)
Overcoming depression Constable and Robinson. ISBN:
? Naime, Kathy (2001)
Dealing with depression Women's Press Ltd. ISBN:
? Rowe, Dorothy (2003)
Depression: the way out of your prison Brunner-Routledge.
Other titles in the Self-Help Guide series:
? Controlling anger
? Depression and low mood
? Obsessions and compulsions
? Post traumatic stress
? Shyness and social anxiety
? Sleep problems
? Stress and anxiety
This booklet and other booklets in the Self Help Guide series can
be downloaded from the Patient Information section on the HERON website at www.heron.nhs.uk
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If you would like this leaflet in audio,
Braille, alternative format or in a
different language please contact
NHS Norfolk on 01603 257252 who
will do their best to help.
Local & national support / information: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy Provides local details of all accredited counsellors/psychotherapists.
Tel: 0870 443 5252
Citizens Advice Bureaux
Advice re: legal, debt, benefits, employment, consumer issues etc.
See the Counselling and Advice section of the Yellow Pages for your local office.
Tel: 01603 661002
Mancroft Advice Project
Information advice and counselling for 11-25 year olds. Tel: 01603 766994
Supports people with mental ill health.
Mind Infoline 0845 7660163
Great Yarmouth & Waveney 01493 842129
Norwich & District 01603 629432
Off the Record Counselling Service
Tel: 01603 626650
Relationship counselling and sex therapy.
Relate Line 0845 130 4010
Central/East Norfolk 01603 625333
North/West Norfolk 01553 773813
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Support for suffers of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Tel: 01903 814942
Offers emotional support 24hrs a day.
Great Yarmouth 01493 842800
King's Lynn 01553 761616
Norwich 01603 611311
St Barnabus Counselling Service
Tel: 01603 625222
Way out Society
Local support group for those with anxiety difficulties. Tel: 01603 628792
4Cs Counselling Centre
Tel: 01603 766321
For health information and contact details of local support groups and services visit the HERON website at
? Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland Mental Health NHS Trust
Revised January 2002 • Produced by Norfolk NHS October 2005
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