Frequently Asked Questions
Is depression a mental illness?
Yes- depression is a scientifically diagnosable illness that affects your brain in a number of harmful ways. Like the flu, measles or any other illness, it is diagnosed using a list of symptoms and treated using scientifically tested treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy and different forms of medication. Despite its status as a mental illness there are still a surprising number of people who think that depression is the same as feeling sad or that people who suffer from it are weak or pretending.Do children get depression?
Yes, depression can affect anyone, no matter their age, gender or situation in life. Mental illnesses like depression can be difficult to spot in children as they can have a harder time explaining what they are feeling, but depression and other mental illnesses can affect children even before they are old enough to attend school. As many as 20% of young people will meet the criteria for major depression before they turn 18.Can a lack of sleep cause depression?
Your mood and the amount of sleep you get are very closely linked. Sleep helps your mind “reset” after a stressful day and gives you the energy and capacity to face challenges in the next day. Sleep disturbances- either getting too much sleep or not enough- are one of the main symptoms of depression. Not getting enough sleep isn’t going to give you depression all on its own, but it can make you feel low and irritable, and will compound any stress or difficult circumstances you may be facing. Making sure you get a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to improve your mood and guard yourself against stress and mental illness.Why are women more likely to get depression?
Research shows that women are almost twice as likely to develop depression as men. The exact reasons for this are not entirely clear. The fact that rates of depression are consistently higher in women across all cultures and countries suggests that it is more to do with biological reasons than social or economic factors, although the stresses of gender inequality and higher responsibility for childcare may play a part for many women. Rates of depression are equal in boys and girls before they reach puberty, suggesting that the fluctuations in hormones women experience after this age may be a big part of the reason they are more likely to develop mental illnesses including depression.Do most people with depression attempt to commit suicide?
Recurrent thoughts about death and suicide are some of the main symptoms of major depression. Around 90% of all people who kill themselves suffered from some kind of mental illness. Depression makes up about half of these. Research has shown that around 15% of those with depression will attempt suicide at some point in their life. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death today, especially in young people, and any indications that someone is thinking about ending their life should be taken very seriously.Will someone who has had depression get it again?
Rates of relapse (getting an illness again after having had it once) vary greatly for depression but are often worryingly high. Some people will experience a single depressive episode that lasts a few weeks, and then never experience any of the symptoms again. Major depression, however, is often a long-term condition with relapse rates being around 80%. The good news is that many types of therapy emphasise relapse prevention and aim to teach coping strategies which enable people to stay free from depression in the long-term. Such therapies can be highly effective in reducing the likelihood of depression relapsing. How long does depression last?
Mild or moderate depression can last a few months (often between 4 and 8) and will then sometimes disappear on its own. Therapy and other forms of treatment can shorten the duration considerably. However, for some people, especially those with severe depression, their symptoms will not go away on their own and can linger for years if left untreated. Depression can also fluctuate and may appear to have gone only to reappear months or years later.Does depression run in families?
Depression can run in families, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. There are some genes that are thought to increase your risk of developing depression, and these can be passed down through families. Families are also likely to be raised in similar environments and have similar personalities and life experiences, all of which play a part in the development of depression. All of this means that if you have family members with depression then you may have an increased risk of getting depression yourself, but it is far from certain.Is seasonal or winter depression a reality?
Yes, seasonal affective disorder is a condition in which low levels of sunlight cause a lower mood in the autumn and winter months. Natural sunlight is directly linked to both your brain’s body clock and your mood, so low sunlight levels can interfere with your sleep and lead to feeling depressed. Light therapy using a special light that mimics natural sunlight can be used to treat seasonal affective disorder and can also be useful in treating non-seasonal depression.What are some of the risk factors associated with developing depression?
What is the difference between grief and depression?
Depression can develop for a number of reasons, or through a combination of different factors. Some of the risk factors and situations that can lead to depression include:
- Trauma and loss
- Abuse of any kind
- Personal conflicts with family or partners
- Major life changes
- Chronic or long-term illnesses
- Substance and alcohol abuse
- Loneliness and isolation
- Low self-esteem
- Having too many commitments or not enough time to relax
- High levels of stress at work or home
- Other mental illnesses like anxiety, PTSD and OCD
Having family members with depression or other mental illness also increases your risk of developing depression, due to certain genetic risk factors and the fact that close family members often have similar personalities and life experiences. Sometimes depression can appear without any obvious sign or cause. Even if the exact cause is unknown, depression can still be treated effectively.
Greif occurs in response to traumatic experiences such as the loss of a loved one or sudden life changes. Grief can cause you to experience a variety of feelings such as sadness, anger, confusion, exhaustion and numbness. Often these feelings heal over time as you begin to process what has happened and come to terms with your loss, although sometimes counselling is needed to assist with this process. Grief can be very distressing to go through but it is not considered a mental illness in the same way as depression is, since it is perfectly natural to feel sad and shaken after experiencing trauma.What's the link between chronic stress and heart disease?
High levels of stress over a long period can take a serious toll on your health. One of the most serious is to do with your heart and circulatory system. Stress causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate in order to increase bloodflow and give you the energy deal with immediate problems. This is harmless in the short term but over time can put increased strain on the heart and circulatory system. A strong link has been established between chronic stress and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and heart attack. Stress has also been linked to weight gain, which can out further strain on your heart.Is there a link between stress and illness?
Long-term stress causes a buildup of harmful chemicals in the brain which can have numerous knock-on effects on your health. Stress does indeed reduce your resistance to infection, increasing the likelihood of getting run down and feeling ill. Stress also increases your risk of developing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and is linked to a number of other harmful psychical effects such as weight gain, hair loss, sexual dysfunction and loss of energy.What kinds of stress do teens face?
Can depression be treated?
Adolescence can be a stressful time to go through as young people struggle to cope with schoolwork, social pressures and the physical and mental changes of puberty. Some of the things teenagers can become anxious or stressed about include:
- School grades
- Getting into the right college or university
- Pressure to do well from parents or teachers
- Conflicts with siblings or parents at home
- Bullying or conflict with other students at school
- Romantic relationships
- Self consciousness and worries about your appearance
- Social pressures to “fit in” and be popular
Sometimes these stresses are made worse by poor sleeping habits and alcohol or substance abuse. Mood swings and irritability caused by puberty can also lead to conflict and feeling low, which in turn contribute to stress levels.
Very much so. There are a variety of depression treatments available that have been rigorously tested and proven to reduce the symptoms of depression. These include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, counselling and various forms of medication. Research consistently shows that treatment has a significant and long-lasting positive impact on the vast majority of people with depression.Why is stress a problem?
Stress was designed as part of the body’s fight or flight response to deal with immediate threats and situations that require an increased jolt of energy and focus. To do this the brain releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that raise the heart rate, increase blood pressure and produce a short term boost in attention and energy. A single stressful incident is unlikely to have any long-term consequences, but the problem arises when people suffer from stress constantly and never get the chance to unwind. This causes a buildup of stress hormones and a constantly elevated blood pressure which can lead to all kinds of health problems, including heart disease, burnout and increased susceptibility to physical and mental illness.What are the main symptoms of stress?
Chronic stress affects both your mind and body in a number of harmful ways. Some of the physical effects of stress include:
- Increased blood pressure and risk of stroke and heart disease
- Higher susceptibility to illness
- Increased sweating
- Muscle pain and tension
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Chest pain
Some of the mental effects of stress include:
- Increased irritability
- Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope with expectations
- Intrusive worries and negative thoughts
- Reduced ability to concentrate and focus
- Lower energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Racing thoughts and difficulty “switching off” from worries
- Lower mood
- Higher levels of worry about the future
- Reduced self-esteem and confidence
- Reduced sex drive
- Increased desire to smoke or drink alcohol