Depression and other mood disorders

What is depression?

Is there a difference between depression and feelings of sadness? Sadness is quite normal but clinical depression is usually a more prolonged period of low mood. Everybody will feel stressed, irritable, exhausted and sad some of the time in their lives. Feelings like this are completely normal and all part of being human. Contributing factors might be a stressful event happening in our lives and when we get through this period we start to feel better.

In contrast those of us who suffer from depression find it is hard to change how we feel. The depressive symptoms can increase and even become worse. We feel stuck with the depressed mood even though our life problems and stressors have been addressed. About 25% of people will be affected by depression at some time in their lives. It can affect people of any gender, ethnicity, age and nationality.

Psychologists comment that often they see people who say “oh I am not depressed because I do not want to end my life, it is not that bad.” We know suicidal thinking and self harm are symptoms of severe depression but there are many other signs and symptoms of depression.

What are some signs of depression?

Being sad or tearful is not always the first sign of becoming depressed. People suffering from depression can have other feelings such as worthlessness, anger, or having no motivation. There might be changes in behaviour like being exhausted all the time and having no energy. Some people find they cannot cope with spending time with others and become a bit isolated. Others might try to eat more or drink more alcohol in an effort to change they way they are feeling.  

Below is a list which shows the most common feelings, thoughts, behaviours and physical symptoms of depression.

How you might be feeling:

  • Feeling sad all the time
  • Finding you cannot get any pleasure or enjoyment from the activity that you used to
  • Not feeling confident and having low self worth
  • Worrying more about everything
  • Feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Finding you are irritable and/or angry more often than usual

What you might be thinking:

  • Having more difficulty concentrating and/or remembering things
  • Thinking more about suicide and death
  • Finding you are struggling to make decisions
  • Noticing you are constantly thinking negative and/or anxious thoughts

What you might do or say:

  • Withdrawing socially and finding excuses to avoid other people, sometimes even your close friends
  • Finding it is an effort to go anywhere or do anything
  • Not taking care of yourself e.g not eating healthy foods or drinking too much alcohol
  • Have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep

The psychologists at Barrenjoey Psychology have sound professional training in the assessment and treatment of depression. Research shows us once you have suffered a depressive episode in your life you have an almost 50% chance of having another episode of depression. People who have suffered depression in life before can find it helpful to learn more about this. It is important to develop some sort of toolkit to use if you are stressed or have the early signs of depression.

The good news is psychological treatment for depression has come a long way and it is now very effective usually in a short period of time. Some types of depression will require treatment with an anti depressant medication. In contrast others can be effectively treated with a short course of therapy with a trained psychologist. There are different types of depression such as dysthymia, bipolar disorder and cyclothymic disorder as well as major depressive disorder. We recommend you have a thorough clinical assessment with an experienced psychologist or clinical psychologist.

The psychologist you see at Barrenjoey Psychology on our northern beaches will determine which type of depression you are suffering from in the first assessment session. Our psychologists have clinical experience and they will provide you with information to help you understand and manage your depression. Then they will work with you to decide on an evidence based treatment method.

If you are in crisis or require urgent care please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or call 000 for an ambulance.