Depression can be compared to a persistent low mood that feels impossible to shake off. It causes intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness that can linger for months and sometimes years.
When a person is overwhelmed by the negative emotions that accompany depression, it can cripple their motivation. Having little to no motivation can make it difficult to function normally, and it's usually at this point that people seek support or treatment for depression.
There are many different support and treatment options for depression, including therapy, medication, and self-care. Different things can work for different people, but usually, a combination is most effective.
Many people have overcome depression with the right treatment and support, and there's hope that you can too.
Depression can affect different people in different ways. However, there are some distinct ways in which depression affects a person's feelings, thoughts, and behavior:
Depression can be a very isolating experience. It's common to feel like you're the only one going through it, but statistics paint another picture.
According to data from the World Health Organisation, 5% of the world's population suffers from depression at any one time. This number goes up for lifetime incidence of depression. In America specifically, it's estimated that 15% of adults will have experienced depression at least once in their lifetime.
There is no single cause of depression. Instead, whether or not someone develops depression is influenced by many factors. Depression, like all mental health conditions, does not discriminate. So anyone can be affected no matter their background. A person can experience depression for the first time at any age, but it's more common after puberty and it peaks in the 20's.
There are biological, psychological, and social and environmental risk factors for depression.
Depression can show up in many different ways. Below are a few ways that depression can present itself:
As you can see, there are many ways in which depression can show up, so only a well-trained clinician can diagnose depression accurately.
If you haven't received a formal diagnosis for depression, it doesn't mean your experience is invalid. If you're having symptoms of depression and they're making you feel distressed and interfering with your ability to live a fulfilling life, then they should be taken seriously.
Something that can complicate a diagnosis of depression is experiencing symptoms of another mental health disorder along with depression. It's quite common to struggle with two or more mental health problems at the same time.
Here are some stats to put this into perspective:
Depression and substance use disorders often occur together. In fact, it's estimated that about 50% of people who struggle with addiction also have depression.
There is a simple explanation for this: people who are depressed may turn to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with painful feelings. It's a form of self-medication. Unfortunately, self-medication for depression using drugs or alcohol can become a vicious circle. In the short-term drugs or alcohol can ease symptoms of depression, but in the long-term they can make symptoms worse and keep people from seeking proper treatment.
For people struggling with both depression and a substance use disorder, addiction treatment is often recommended first.
There are millions of people who struggle with depression every day. It's normal to feel alone, but you don't have to suffer in silence. There is help available.
When you're depressed, the future can look hopeless and it may feel like your pain will never end. It's important to remind yourself that this is your depression talking. Recovery from depression is possible. It starts with the right treatment and support.
Even if you're feeling suicidal right now, there is hope. There are people who understand and care about your pain and who want to listen to you.
Below are some suggestions for seeking help from others:
Talking to a friend or family member you trust is one of the best things you can do when you're struggling with your mental health.
It can be scary to think about opening up, but connecting with someone else and feeling understood in your struggle can be incredibly helpful. Try starting with something simple like, "Hey, I've been having a rough time lately, can we talk?"
Think about how you'd like the other person to support you and let them know what you need. It's normal for loved ones to try to offer advice, but this type of support can backfire if what you're really looking for is a listening ear.
Support from a therapist or other professional can be very effective in working through depression.
A therapist can help you recover from depression by treating the root of the problem, and teaching you effective ways to cope. They can also talk through whether medication is necessary or not.
If you have access to a doctor, they can help by referring you to local services, crisis centers, or other mental health support services.
Some people may feel uncomfortable opening up to someone they know about their feelings. Thankfully, there are many different hotline options that offer private support.
Mental health hotlines, or helplines, provide immediate assistance to people struggling with their mental health all over the world.
Most countries have at least one national hotline and smaller, local helplines. In the United States, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Line (formerly called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) is available in every state.
In addition to free, private support, another benefit to mental health hotlines is their accessibility. Most are available 24/7 and many increasingly provide the option to talk over phone, text, or online chat.
Mental health hotlines can help support you by:
Hotlines were set up to help people who share struggles just like yours. It doesn't matter if you have a diagnosis of depression or not, you can still contact a hotline if you need someone to talk to. You'll receive confidential support and if you like, you can also get information about local resources and treatment options in your area.
Mental health hotlines are usually staffed by professional crisis counselors, trained volunteers, or peers who have experienced mental health problems themselves. Their job is not to give advice or tell you what to do. It is to listen to you and help you to understand and process what you're experiencing.
Most hotlines are available in at least one of three ways: phone call, text message, or using a live online chat feature. Larger national hotlines will usually offer more than one way to get in touch.
There are millions of people who struggle with depression every day, and there is help available. It can be hard to reach out for help when you're feeling low. But remember that you're not alone, and there are people who want to help.
Getting professional support can be a critical first step to overcoming depression and reclaiming your life. For sustained recovery from depression, it's important to make a habit of practicing self-care in your everyday life.
Self-care means engaging in behaviors that help you maintain good physical and mental health. Physical and mental health are closely connected, that's why it's important to take care of both.
Below are some ideas for practicing self-care for your physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs.
Taking care of your physical health will make managing depression easier. The body and mind are closely connected, and taking care of your physical health will bring mental benefits.
Here are some ways to care for your physical health:
Mental self-care is about doing things to maintain a positive mindset and healthy self-esteem. It also includes doing things that help you to unwind and relax.
Here are some examples:
Self-care looks different for everyone, so do what you find most helpful to relax.
Maintaining strong connections with others is important for mental health. Having good relationships can offer support in times of need and can help beat loneliness, which is something that can contribute to depression.
Here's how to practice social self-care:
Feeling connected to something greater and higher than yourself can relieve symptoms of depression. Being spiritually connected can help you feel supported and strengthened no matter what you're going through.
Here are some ways to practice spiritual self-care:
Depression can make it hard to take care of yourself, but self-care is an important part of recovery.
Don't forget to give yourself time and patience. Recovery from depression takes time, but it is possible. You are worth the effort.
Remember, for sustained recovery, getting therapy, practicing self-care, and developing a strong social support system are key.
If someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, it's important to reach out and check in with them. This will show that you care and can go a long way in helping them feel better.
If you want to support someone who is depressed, here are a few things that can help:
Supporting someone with a mental health problem can take a toll on your own mental health. It's important if you feel like your mental health is declining, to get support, too. You can reach out to a professional therapist or call a hotline.
Helplines are available in most countries, and through Find A Helpline we connect you to them for free.
To use Find A Helpline, select your country, and then choose the topic you want to talk about – e.g. "Depression". You will be shown the most relevant helplines for you in your location.
If you like, you can filter your results based on who you want to talk to (volunteers, counselors or peers), how you want to talk to them (phone, text, or webchat) and whether you want a helpline with a certain specialty (e.g. LGBTQ+).
This way, you can find the right helpline for you, available at the time you need it.Find A Helpline