Photo By Eva Rinaldi (Flickr: Robin Williams) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The sad loss of the celebrity actor Robin Williams has shocked thousands around the world who have enjoyed his humour and passion for his craft of story telling. I cannot imagine the grief his loved ones are experiencing at this time and hope that we can be sensitive to this time of bereavement for them and give them the space to grieve their husband, father etc.
I don’t wish to dwell on Robin’s suicide but more on what has been considered to be a contributing factor to his death. I am speaking about depression. Those who have never experienced it themselves or seen it’s devastating effects on a loved one, may wonder what the big deal is about. Afterall, dont we all suffer from depression from time to time; like when we don’t get what we want, a particular job or relationship, or when the day doesn’t work out like we want it to? Well, that is feeling depressed momentarily and we usually bounce back over a little while and get back into the flow of life.
Clinical depression is quite a different matter. It affects many of us and can be far worse than the odd day feeling out of sorts. It is when there is a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, with prolonged feelings of despondency and can run from days and weeks into months and years. It can whittle away at an individual’s confidence and can squeeze every ounce of purpose and passion out of their life so they feel each day is without colour. Sometimes when the sufferer does tell a friend or loved one that they are feeling depressed, they may be advised to “snap out of it” or “think of those worse off” etc. In my experience, these responses just alienate the sufferer more and push them further into feelings of rejection and loneliness.
It is interesting how so many well known comedians have suffered with depression – Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Peter Cooke, Stephen Fry to name but a few. Making others laugh with you can make you feel that you are liked and can take the individual out of their sense of isolation for awhile. But often the afterglow is shortlived.
Depression can affect anyone regardless of status, wealth, gender or nationality. Depression is the single biggest killer of men aged 20-49 in the UK, according to the Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm).
Some of my clients who have suffered with depression have said it feels like cotton wool wrapped around their thoughts and feelings, they feel numb to life, no longer enjoy things they did before, see no purpose to their existence, find it difficult to make decisons and have outbursts of irritability followed by lethargy and passivity.
It has been suggested that as many as one in four women and one in ten men in the UK will suffer with depression that will take them to the doctor. I imagine it probably is closer to one in four for men as many men prefer not to talk about their feelings or act on them as much as women do but these are just my thoughts on the matter. Certainly the number of men who come to me with depression is equal if not higher than women.
Talking to a professional therapist is a safe haven for many who feel misunderstood by those around them. In my therapy sessions, clients can cry, take their time to say what they feel and speak honestly and openly without fear of judgement or recrimination. I listen underneath the words for the reasons and encourage the client to explore the sources in a safe environment with the appropriate tools to minimise and eventually eradicate the problem.
If you would like to talk with me confidentially about your own situation and see if I can help you, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0794 833 6993.
“I came to Diana at a stage in my life where I really did not know which way to turn, feeling lost. With her help I was able to put things back in to context, and rather than to deny how I felt to embrace my feelings as a sign of which direction I should be taking. As a result I have now embarked on a new career. Who knows if it will work out but the fear that I had before which had kept me stuck in a bad place for so long has been banished. One thing is for sure is I am having fun, I’m doing something that I’m passionate about. Life had been a drudge until recently but now I can’t wait to jump out of bed in the morning and there is simply just not enough time left in the day to do everything that I want to do.
Diana – thanks for your gentle approach in which you helped me find my way. I now feel back in control and am learning to trust my intuition, to be more open and also to be more relaxed about sharing my feelings and emotions.
I think that sums it up nicely. Thanks Diana, you do have an exceptional skill and thank you so much for guiding me through what felt like treacle over the past few months.
So very much appreciated.”
~Chris from Sheffield
They are many reputable websites that can further assist you with looking at the signs and symptoms, here is NHS Choices advice below.
The symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between people. But as a general rule, if you are depressed, you feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you used to enjoy.
The symptoms persist for weeks or months and are bad enough to interfere with your work, social life and family life.
There are many other symptoms of depression and you’re unlikely to have every one listed below.
If you experience some of these symptoms for most of the day, every day for more than two weeks, you should seek help from your GP.
Psychological symptoms include:
- continuous low mood or sadness
- feeling hopeless and helpless
- having low self-esteem
- feeling tearful
- feeling guilt-ridden
- feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- having no motivation or interest in things
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- not getting any enjoyment out of life
- feeling anxious or worried
- having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
Physical symptoms include:
- moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- change in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
- unexplained aches and pains
- lack of energy or lack of interest in sex (loss of libido)
- changes to your menstrual cycle
- disturbed sleep (for example, finding it hard to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning)
Social symptoms include:
- not doing well at work
- taking part in fewer social activities and avoiding contact with friends
- neglecting your hobbies and interests
- having difficulties in your home and family life
Depression can come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people continue to try to cope with their symptoms without realising they are ill. It can take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.
Doctors describe depression by how serious it is:
- mild depression has some impact on your daily life
- moderate depression has a significant impact on your daily life
- severe depression makes it almost impossible to get through daily life – a few people with severe depression may have psychotic symptoms
Grief and depression
It can be hard to distinguish between grief and depression. They share many of the same characteristics, but there are important differences between them.
Grief is an entirely natural response to a loss, while depression is an illness.
People who are grieving find their feelings of loss and sadness come and go, but they’re still able to enjoy things and look forward to the future.
In contrast, people who are depressed have a constant feeling of sadness. They don’t enjoy anything and find it hard to be positive about the future.
Read more about grief and how it differs from depression.
Other types of depression
There are different types of depression, and some conditions where depression may be one of the symptoms. These include:
- Postnatal depression. Some women develop depression after having a baby. Postnatal depression is treated in similar ways to other forms of depression, with talking therapies and antidepressant medicines.
- Bipolar disorder is also known as “manic depression”. It’s where there are spells of depression and excessively high mood (mania). The depression symptoms are similar to clinical depression, but the bouts of mania can include harmful behaviour such as gambling, going on spending sprees and having unsafe sex.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Also known as “winter depression”, SAD is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern usually related to winter.