Depression & Mood disorders
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.
What is depression?
Depression is considered to be a mood disorder, a category of psychological disorder that includes depressive disorders and bipolar disorder. Key signs of depression include constantly feeling down or hopeless, and having little interest or pleasure in things that were previously enjoyable. Other possible signs of depression include:
- Low self esteem
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of emptiness or loneliness
- Sleep problems
- Weight changes
- Morbid thinking
- Unstable moods
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.
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 taking 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 SUICIDE 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. If someone has attempted suicide or you’re worried about their immediate safety, do the following.
- Call your local mental health crisis assessment team or take them to the emergency department (ED) at your nearest hospital.
- If they are an immediate physical danger to themselves or others, call 111.
- Stay with them until support arrives.
- Remove any obvious means of suicide (eg, guns, medication, cars, knives, rope).
- Try to stay calm and let them know you care.
- Keep them talking: listen and ask questions without judging.
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.
Seek professional help
If you are concerned that your child may be struggling with depression or a mood disorder, seek professional help – people 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.