Thursday, 31 March 2011

Depression - a private torment

This was the title of a recent talk about depression by Dr Bev Daily, Trustee of the Burnham Health Promotion Trust. He talked about the classic symptoms of depression that can often become apparent at this time of year, and can be evident due to seasonal affective disorder syndrome (SADS).

It seems our brains can be resilient for a certain period of time and when the winter has done its worst some people succumb to the illness, known as 'the black dog' by Sir Winston Churchill.

Many well known, high profile people suffer with depression but it still has a stigma attached and is not commonly known as an illness. If it was called 'brain flu' or 'mind sickness' would people perhaps be more accepting and open to talking about it?

The typical symptoms are:
• Early morning awakening
• Seeing the negative side of everything
• Feelings of guilt and unworthiness
• Loss of libido
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies

However, some people often conceal it very well and may do so by throwing themselves into lots of activities to distract themselves.

What causes it?

Our complex brain has millions of nerve cells that communicate with each other across junctions called synapses. The transmission of nerve impulses through the brain is part electrical along the cells, and part chemical across the synapses, by neuro-transmitters such as serotonin, which is thought to make us happy.

Depression can be regarded as physical illness and is caused when there is inefficient chemical activity in the brain.

Your brain is like a TV set

The circuits in the brain become faulty just like the circuits in a television set. Whereas people are quite willing to have a TV set repaired there is often a reluctance to seek treatment for depression, even when anti-depressants can have a remarkably successful and rapid effect in as little as 1-2 weeks.

The use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is also known as a successful treatment for anxiety and depression and can help change negative thought patterns.

Outside factors can trigger an attack or worsen a condition, including breaks in routine and holidays. Inactivity can also trigger depression and exercise can help alleviate it. Change of job, or loss of status, are also known to be factors.

One in five people are known to suffer from depression at some point in their life so it is highly likely you will know someone affected.

What can you do to help?

Take care as people may get cross if asked if they are depressed and especially if they are patronised:
'I expect it's her depression again'
'He needs to just pull himself together'.

With gentle encouragement a visit to the doctor is the first step to getting well, especially if insomnia is very bad and prolonged.

Upbeat music, reading, light exercise, some activity, plenty of water, sunlight, smiling, practicing CBT and eating healthy food can all help. There are plenty of books with good advice - Dr Windy Dryden is a particular authority on the subject of depression and anxiety.

If you would like a more detailed article posted to you about depression or a conversation in confidence please contact Karen for more information.

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