What exactly does clinical depression feel like? And would you know it if you had it?
That's the question raised in a fascinating personal insight into the experience of depression in The Guardian, by a freelance writer, Rin Hamburgh.
Despite the fact that her father was bipolar and her sister had been diagnosed with depression a decade earlier, Hamburgh suffered for months with low moods, constant tiredness, poor appetite and inability to concentrate without realising that they were symptoms of a serious underlying condition.
Like too many victims of this condition, Hamburgh told herself she was just tired or forgetful. It wasn't until a friend suggested that she seek professional help that she finally discovered that she wasn't just feeling down.
According to the article, between 8% and 12% of Britons will experience a period of depression in any year. In Australia, according to BeyondBlue, 45 per cent of Australians will suffer from a mental health condition in their lifetime, and in any year, around one million of us will have depression.
Unfortunately, a disturbing number of them will never be diagnosed, largely because they don't recognise the symptoms.
As clinical psychologist Angel Adams points out in the article, people tend to come up with apparently rational explanations for the way they are feeling.
"If they have a lack of energy or fatigue, they might just think they're doing too much. Sometimes they think, 'It's just this illness' or 'I had a break-up with somebody', but really they're experiencing depression as well as the illness or the grief reaction."
"People don't quite understand that you can still function and have depression ... many people continue to work, continue to function but to a very different degree. You don't have to be suicidal to be depressed. You can be clinically depressed and just think, 'This is the way my life is.'"
The article points to a number of things that raise a red flag:
- Low mood
- Lack of interest or enjoyment
- Loss of appetite
- Decrease in libido
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Aches and pains
- Poor memory