We all have mental health and it can change at any moment. Every day I see people with mental health issues in my surgery, and the coronavirus pandemic has only seen an increase. Patients who previously had good mental health are struggling with the increased burdens from the pandemic, with loss of financial security or with physical illness, and many patients who have mental illness have also deteriorated. Lots of the support networks – be that their family or friends, going to work, meeting with people, exercising in the gym, hobbies and the like – were removed or changed during the various phases of lockdown restrictions, and the impact of it all is extremely real.
So, what is depression and what is the difference between feeling a bit low, flat or sad for a few days and being depressed? The main one is about how it impacts you and your life. If your mood is affecting your ability to function, affecting your relationships, work or being able to get out of bed in the morning, then it is time to seek help.
In depression, the symptoms are persistent for over two weeks and include low mood or sadness nearly every day (you might be more tearful, but it doesn’t always lead to an increase in crying), a loss of pleasure or even interest in doing things, including daily activities or things that you normally enjoy.
The symptoms of depression can then be divided into physical symptoms and cognitive (thought-based) ones.
Physical symptoms include feeling tired all the time or not having as much energy as normal. Your sleep may be disturbed. You may wake up extremely early in the morning and be unable to get back to sleep (terminal insomnia), or be unable to get to sleep in the first place (initial insomnia). Or you may find that you are sleeping much more than normal. You may notice a loss of appetite or not being interested in food, and this can then lead to weight loss. Alternatively, the opposite happens, and you may find that you eat for comfort.
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