Depression versus “the blues”

Depression can be hard to nail down. You may say you are “depressed” when in fact you are just down in the dumps, for example if you don’t get the job you have set your hopes on, someone lets you down or you notice an increase in your weight. Often such feelings are little more than a passing mood. You move on to something else, get distracted and forget what was troubling you.

True clinical depression, however, is a completely different kettle of fish. For those who suffer it, life has little meaning. They find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, going to work seems pointless and they are no longer able to see the pleasure in the things they once found enjoyable – feelings that without treatment can drag on for weeks, months and even years. It’s not surprising that Winston Churchill, a lifelong sufferer of depression, labelled it his ‘black dog.’

This sort of depression is much more common that you might think. It is the most common psychiatric disorder and ranks fourth in terms of ‘global disease burden’ according to the World Health Organization (WHO). According to government figures, mental health problems, including depression, cost the country an estimated £77 billion a year in healthcare, benefits and lost productivity. Just under 46.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in England alone last year, an increase of 9.1 per cent over the previous 12 months according to the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre.

“Recent studies show that one in five people will be affected by depression at some point in their lives,” says Amelia Mustapha Director of SMART (St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training) and a founding member of the European Depression Association. “These figures may be even higher as some people are reluctant to admit they have a problem and seek help. Depression can also creep on gradually, which makes it harder to identify than a sudden illness.

“Sadly, despite being so common, there is still a certain stigma attached to ‘being depressed‘ ’’, explains Amelia. This can make it hard for people with depression to admit even to themselves that something is wrong. It is vital that people remember, though, that depression is not a sign of weakness. It can strike anyone – think Catherine Zeta Jones, Ruby Wax, Stephen Fry and Rory Bremner, who have all admitted to battling with the illness. There is nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. “With the right support and understanding, as well as treatment if necessary, most people will make a good recovery,” adds Amelia.

Spotting the symptoms >