Focus On... Depression

Depression is a term that is commonly used in society to describe a great range of emotional difficulties. However, depression is a medical condition that refers to more than the occasional feelings of unhappiness that we experience from time to time.

Dr. Yadavindra Singh, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Bolton Crisis Resolution Team and Home based treatment team, talks through some key points about depression and tells us how he and the teams are involved in treating people with the condition.

What is depression?

Depression is a very common condition which can affect anybody. Some studies suggest that 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their life. When depressed a person’s unhappy feelings last longer than a few days and can significantly affect all aspects of their life.

What causes depression?

There are many reasons for why someone can become depressed. There can be obvious reasons but most commonly depression is due to a combination of different factors. Such factors often include distressing events, physical illnesses, regular and heavy alcohol misuse and difficult social circumstances. Depression can also be hereditary.

Research shows that women seem to get depressed more than men and can be vulnerable to the condition around the time of child birth.

What are the symptoms?

People can experience different symptoms but common symptoms include feeling unhappy most of the time, loss of interest in life and an inability to enjoy anything.

Feeling tired, exhausted, restless or agitated can be seen as symptoms of depression, as well as finding it difficult to go to sleep, waking up early and even sleeping too much. Changes in appetite can also point to depression.

People with the condition often describe deep feelings of despair, hopelessness and worthlessness. They may even feel that their life is not worth living and contemplate suicide.

The symptoms of depression are not exhaustive and sometimes people suffer with other difficulties including physical symptoms. Symptoms can be difficult to spot especially if they appear gradually.

What is the treatment and prognosis?

There are many effective treatments for depression which usually fall into categories of self-help strategies, talking therapies and medication focused treatments.

Often a combination of these treatments are used. Suggested treatments depend on the severity of depression and the contributing factors. Being depressed can have a huge impact on people’s lives and also the lives of loved ones but the prognosis across the spectrum of depressive disorders is good and many people return to their previous level of functioning.

Most treatment is conducted by GPs but in some cases may require the involvement of Mental Health Services such as GMMH. Early recognition of symptoms and appropriate treatment improves prognosis.

What are the different types of depression?

Depression occurs in different ways for different people. Depression can vary in terms of intensity and the impairment of a person being able to function as normal.

Some people suffer one off episodes. However, there are some people who experience recurrent episodes.

Depression can be linked with anxiety and in some instances people become severely depressed. There can be accompanying psychotic symptoms and people become unable to distinguish between their imagination and reality.

Depression can also occur in the context of bi-polar affective disorder when patients experience both prolonged periods of depression alternating with episodes of elevated mood.

What to do if you know or suspect that someone is depressed

Being able to listen to someone who may be depressed is invaluable in itself. This can be very stressful and upsetting for you, especially if this is someone who you care for. The most important aspect is to be supportive and understanding.  This can include simple things such as helping someone keep to their routine, shopping, spending time with them, discouraging alcohol consumption and to seek help.

If someone you know has been having thoughts that their life is not worth living, or of harming themselves you must take this very seriously and strongly suggest that they see a health professional and speak to a professional about it yourself.

Anything else?

The Bolton Crisis Resolution and Home based treatment team (where Dr Yadavindra Singh is based) takes urgent referrals from many sources including GPs and from within mental health services.

They offer intensive community based home treatment and help many people who become depressed onto the road of recovery. The teams are made up of qualified nurses, social workers, support staff, occupational therapists and psychiatrists who work in a flexible, sensitive and therapeutic way for all service users.