Feeling down when difficult life events happen is normal. Everyone experiences dark moods every now and then, usually when something upsetting or stressful occurs. These feelings usually fade over time and we move on with life. Sometimes these feelings don’t go away. When they persist and moving on doesn’t seem possible (even after personal circumstances improve), this could be a sign of something more serious – they may be suffering from clinical depression.
Depression is considered to be a mood disorder, a category of psychological disorder that includes depressive disorders and bipolar disorder.
Depression is common – even for young people
By the age of 24, one in seven young New Zealander’s will have experienced a major depressive episode. Depression is a mental disorder characterised by a persistent and intense low mood, often accompanied by low self-esteem, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities and feelings of anxiety.
Depression adversely affects every aspect of an individual’s life and can be very disabling. It is important to note that not everyone experiences depression in the same way. This can make it hard to know what to look for.
Warning signs include:
- Constant feelings of hopelessness and being down
- Little interest or pleasure in things that used to be enjoyable
- Low self esteem
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of emptiness or loneliness
- Sleep problems
- Weight changes
- Morbid thinking
- Unstable moods
Potential causes of depression
In some cases the cause of an individual’s depression is easy to identify, but often it is a mixture of events, lifestyle and genetic or biological factors. This can make it hard to tell where it all started. For others, there may seem to be no clear reason for them to have become depressed. It is important to consult the appropriate professionals to identify what the causes may be and using that information, how best to overcome the difficulties.
Common causes of depression include:
- Family history of depression
- Traumatic experiences
- Bullying or abuse
- Death or loss of someone close
- Alcohol or drug use
- Ongoing health issues
- Rejection and isolation
- Some medications
For some people, their suffering becomes greater than they feel they can bear and they may attempt to or succeed in take their own life. Not all who are depressed are suicidal, just as those who are suicidal are not always depressed. However, depression and other mental illnesses are often the greatest risk factors. By knowing what to look out for, you can act quickly and potentially save someone’s life.
Possible warning signs:
- Constantly talking or thinking about death
- Talking about killing oneself
- Clinical depression that continues to get worse
- Acting in dangerous or life threatening ways
- Making comments about being worthless and hopeless
- Sudden change from being very sad to appearing calm or happy unexpectedly
- Talking about saying goodbye to people
- Making comments such as “the world would be better off without me”
If you are worried that someone is thinking about or planning to commit suicide, it is important to urgently seek help from a professional.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD is a recurrent depressive disorder that occurs at a specific time of year, but symptoms are otherwise absent during the remainder of the year. Typically these episodes occur during the winter months, although they may occur in the warmer seasons also.
Previously known as manic depression, bipolar individuals experience episodes of intense elatedness or agitation (mania) often alternating with episodes of depression.
People with bipolar disorder may be relatively stable for a few days, weeks or even months between episodes of elevated mood and depression, or they may cycle rapidly between the two moods. They key component of bipolar disorder is the shift between excited states to depressive states.
The cause of bipolar varies greatly between individuals. Genetic, physiological, environmental and neurological factors may contribute. Onset of bipolar disorder peaks during the adolescent and early adult years.
elation, euphoria, impatience, inflated self-esteem, easily distracted.Social withdrawal, feeling hopeless, irritable, gloominess
Seek Professional Help
If you are concerned that your child may be struggling with depression, seek professional help. When people are battling depression, they rarely get better on their own.
It takes the support of others to help them pull through. Depression can be a life-threatening condition so it important to seek help as soon as possible. A qualified professional can help your child to get through this difficult time in their life.