If you think you may suffer from depression, you can take solace in the knowledge that you’re not alone. According to beyondblue, which aims to create a community response to and deeper understanding of depression:
• Up to one in four females and one in six males will experience depression in their lifetime.
• Depression is the leading cause of suicide.
• Depression is often not recognised or treated.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of becoming depressed – or at least, minimise the symptoms when they crop up.
If you suffer from depression, you may be tempted to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, but mood-altering substances such as these can serve to make matters worse. “It’s not uncommon for people with depression or anxiety to try to manage the illness themselves,” beyondblue advises. “It’s important to know that… behaviour like drinking more alcohol or smoking cannabis is unhelpful and may make things worse.”
You can suffer from depression due to biological factors or external influences, or a combination of both – and the correct treatment will be determined by the cause. “Types of depression that are caused by biological factors (melancholic depression and psychotic melancholia) are more likely to need physical treatments, including antidepressants, as they’re less likely to be resolved with psychological treatments alone, including counselling and psychotherapy,” confirms Reach Out Australia. Don’t try to cope on your own: Visit your GP for a proper diagnosis so you can work towards feeling better.
You might not feel like it, but exercising and eating well can give your mood a boost when you’re feeling down. Reach Out Australia says biological factors, as well as social factors, influence how you will feel, react and think about things and yourself. “Exercise helps stimulate hormones, such as endorphins, which help you feel better about yourself and your life,” they advise. “If you haven't done a lot of exercise before, it might be a good idea to start doing something small a couple of times each week, like a 15-minute walk or two or three laps of a pool.”
Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a qualified professional can help you to understand what may be triggering your low moods, and strategies you can use to cope with your depression. Keep in mind that through Medicare, within one calendar year, a person with depression (or another mental health problem, such as anxiety, post traumatic stress or obsessive compulsive disorder) may be able receive up to 12 individual consultations and up to 12 group therapy sessions with a mental health professional.
Jotting down your feelings or keeping a journal can be a helpful strategy for clarifying your thoughts. “It can be a great way of understanding your emotions and a specific situation,” says Reach Out Australia. “It can also help you think about alternative solutions to problems.”
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