We often use the expression "I'm feeling depressed" when we're feeling sad or miserable about life. Usually, these feelings pass in due course. But if the feelings are interfering with your life and don't go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back, over and over again, for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you're depressed in the medical sense of the term- I felt detached from the world around me. All emotions - love, affection, anger - were gone. Actually, I can't say I had no emotions, I did, but they all seemed desperately negative. Most involved fear. Fear that I would never escape the condition.
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In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn't stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, major depression (clinical depression) can be life-threatening, because it can make people suicidal or simply give up the will to live.
If you usually become depressed only during the autumn and winter, it could be due to not getting enough daylight. You may benefit from spending time sitting in front of a special light box.
Many mothers have 'the baby blues' soon after the birth of their baby, but it usually passes after a few days. Postnatal depression is a more serious problem and can appear any time between two weeks and two years after the birth.
Some people have mood swings, when periods of depression alternate with periods of mania. When manic, they are in a state of high excitement, and may plan and may try to execute grandiose schemes and ideas.
Find out more about bipolar disorder (manic depression)
At least one person in every six becomes depressed in the course of their lives. One in 20 is clinically depressed. Figures suggest that it is women more than men who become depressed, but men may find it harder to admit to or talk about their experience. All age groups can be affected, and it's important to take symptoms seriously and not to dismiss them as an inevitable part of growing up or growing old. By recognising and treating the symptoms and getting help, it's possible to overcome depression, and prevent it coming back.
Signs or symptoms and treatment plans of melancholy - and what you can do to enable your self or another person you know.
Depression shows itself in many different ways. People don't always realise what's going on because their problems seem to be physical, not mental. They tell themselves they're simply under the weather or feeling tired. But if you tick off five or more of the following symptoms, it's likely you're depressed:
being restless and agitated
waking up early, having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more
feeling tired and lacking energy; doing less and less
using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
not eating properly and losing or putting on weight
crying a lot