Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety affect around 1 in 6 people at some stage of their life. Despite it being such a common problem, many sufferers wait months or even years before seeking help. There is still a misconception that depression is not something that needs to be taken seriously and that you can shake it off, if only you pull yourself together.
But clinical depression is a severe illness that affects both the mind and the body. If left untreated, depression can lead to relationship problems and increases the risk of difficulties with drugs or alcohol. It also takes its toll on physical health, often leading to insomnia, weight gain or loss and slower recovery from heart disease and strokes.
If you think you or someone you know is suffering from severe depression, it's essential to seek medical advice. A course of anti-depressants and possibly therapy might well be needed to improve their mental health.
It can be difficult to recognise depression in yourself. There are many excuses people make to rationalise the way they feel, including:
You don't believe you're depressed; it's just that your life has hit a rough patch. Your kids are acting up, work's going crazy, and the house looks like a disaster zone. These are all reasons for feeling stressed, true enough.
But what you might not realise is that anxiety and depression (these conditions often go hand in hand) come with symptoms that can make you feel like your life is swirling out of your control. You might find that your sleep patterns are disrupted so that you have insomnia, or you may oversleep. You can find yourself unable to focus on tasks and that your responses are less sharp.
Even if you feel that it's your situation that's making you feel this way, anxiety and depression might be making you feel worse. If you find yourself feeling very stressed for two weeks or more, then you should bear in mind that there might be something else simmering in the background.
The stereotype of a depressed person is someone unproductive and listless, who struggles with daily life and avoids interacting with family and friends. However, mental health issues take many forms, and someone who always seems to be busy can also be trying to cope with anxiety or depression.
Constant socialising or work allows them to feel in control and distracts them from having to address their mental turmoil. Perhaps you're always working but don't feel like you're ever getting near your goal, or you find it hard to accept praise for your achievements? Take a step back and ask yourself whether your constant partying or hard work masks your real problems.
Suffering from depression done' t mean you feel overwhelming melancholy 24/7; on the contrary, you might not have any powerful feelings at all. Many people experience depression as the absence of emotions, a sense of numbness, apathy or emptiness that seems inescapable.
One of the critical questions when diagnosing depression is whether you have noticed a lack of pleasure or interest in the things you used to enjoy. If your answer is "yes", then the implication is clear, but you might also be less specific. Depression can develop gradually and almost unnoticed. A response such as "Maybe" or "I'm not sure", could be a sign that you need to take action.
When you've been feeling sad or anxious for months or even years, there's a risk that you rationalise and dismiss each symptom. As you struggle on and cope, depression becomes your "new normal". But feeling sad, angry or numb all the time is far from normal.
If a bad mood, numbness or feeling blue affects your ability to function at home or work, or persists for more than two weeks, this is the point at which your gloominess might cross the line into clinical depression, and you should seek help.
It's true that having suicidal thoughts are a symptom sometimes experienced by people going through a mental health crisis. If you are thinking about suicide, you're definitely unwell. But just as with physical health, there are degrees of severity in mental illness. You can be experiencing depression and anxiety without feeling suicidal or self-harming. If you recognise in yourself any of the symptoms of depression that we've described, talk to someone about your state of mind.
If you're suffering from mild to moderate depression, there are many steps that you can take to improve your mood. Get some exercise, preferably outdoors in the fresh air, cut back on alcohol and make sure you eat healthily. These simple measures should also help you to sleep better. While you might feel like hiding away from the world, try to socialise with friends and family as often as you can.
Depression is an insidious condition that can have a severe impact on your mental and physical health. It can be difficult to treat because it might not just be a single episode but can recur without warning. Bach flower essences contain pure flower extracts to treat a range of mental and physical health issues. Bach Flower Mix 65 helps to boost your mood and banish gloomy thoughts. There are also Flower Mixes designed to treat specific symptoms that can be linked to depression, such as Bach Flower Mix 61 for loss of appetite and Bach Flower Mix 87 for insomnia. Bach Flower Mixes are completely safe to take and have no side effects, so you can stop and start a course of treatment whenever you need support.
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Are you unsure which Bach flowers can help you? Contact Tom for free advice.