It is not always easy to know if you are depressed or not.
Depression comes in various forms, ranging from mild to more severe. Depression is a common mental disorder – and one of the main causes of disability worldwide.
Globally, an estimated 350 million people are affected by depression.
Depression changes the way we think
It’s normal to be sad from time to time, but depression is more than feeling miserable. If your life seems dominated by emptiness and despair and these feelings do not go away, you may be depressed. Depression makes it difficult to function and enjoy life – just getting through the day can be overwhelming.
Common features of depression:
- Negative thoughts
- Feeling that life has no meaning
- Poor self-esteem
- Lack of interest in other people and common tasks
- Lack of energy
Depression is associated with changes in how the brain works. The brain sends signals between nerve endings using substances called neurotransmitters. If you are depressed, neurotransmitters called norepinephrine and serotonin are out of balance and do not work as they should.
The things that happen in your life are also important. Depression can be triggered by stressful events such as divorce or financial problems. A difficult childhood can make you vulnerable to episodes of depression. (Source: Health Norway)
There are many ways to treat depression. The treatment will depend on symptoms and diagnosis, among other factors.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health has developed guidelines that include recommendations on the diagnosis and treatment of depression in both primary and secondary care situations, for adult patients over 18 years. Here are excerpts from the guidelines:
The first choice of action for mild forms of depression should normally be:
- Counseling and psychological care.
- Antidepressants are not recommended as a treatment form.
- Starting with non-drug therapy, such as help with sleep problems and coping with anxiety.
- Encouraging physical activity and possibly simple psychological approaches such as structured problem-solving techniques.
- Consideration should be given to an assisted self-help program, with self-help literature or web-based applications based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy. There is some benefit from limited monitoring by health professionals.
- Consideration should be given to advising the patient in relation to problem solving in everyday life, brief cognitive therapy / counseling or interpersonal therapy / counseling, with six to eight treatments over a period of 10 to 12 weeks.
Tips for what you can do yourself
We know from cognitive therapy that what you think about yourself affects how you perceive a situation. Many who become depressed experience a kind of hopelessness or develop negative thoughts about themselves and their lives. Cognitive therapy may improve symptoms of depression and increase your chances of being completely better. The goal is to get rid of negative thoughts and beliefs, and to help you have more positive thought patterns.
The treatment for depression involves building your self-esteem up again and finding your way back to feeling the joy in life. But it requires that you make an effort.
- Start small and build yourself up again, step by step.
- Try shifting your focus from bad/negative thoughts to what you have in the here and now.
- Take one step at a time and do things that are positive for you.
- Research shows that physical activity is effective against depression. “Force” yourself to be active, by doing things such as going for a little walk every day – and know that it will do you good.
- When you are depressed you lose the desire to do things. Doing something / meeting friends will be good for you because it helps you focus on something else, and gives you less time to sit at home and brood.
- Remind yourself that you are doing the best that you can – find a way to think positive thoughts, and focus on what you can do and enjoy.
- Give the process time and do not be too hard on yourself. The fact that you are actually trying is a positive thing; know that you will reach your goal.
Keep track of positive happenings
Keeping track of positive happenings and experiences that you have mastered helps to keep your spirits up, and shows you that you are headed in the right direction.
As you begin to record positive events, it is common for negative thoughts and feelings to be weakened – just by virtue of keeping track. This happens because you to shift your focus from what you have not been able to achieve to what you have mastered. That gives you room for other thoughts, and the negative thoughts and emotions are shifted into the background.
- In your work to make changes, it is essential for your motivation that you continue to try, even if you do not see immediate results.