We’ve all headed to Google for answers, on a wide variety of questions, and it tends to come up trumps most of the time. When we head to Google with health-related queries though, it can be a bit hit and miss, and sometimes, really quite frightening. We’ve addressed some common Google searches beginning with ‘How Does Depression …’.
How Does Depression Affect You?
Depression affects all of us in different ways, but there are some things that are common amongst the majority of people living with depression. Many of us experience some similar symptoms such as experiencing low mood, sleeping too much or too little, a cognitive fogginess, having problems with our appetite, struggling to motivate ourselves to do things, having problems with our memory and concentration, and living with physical problems caused by our depression. We will often struggle to manage basic self-care. Depression can affect our relationships. It can cause us to struggle at work, or be unable to work at all, and can leave us with money problems. There are all sorts of different ways that depression can affect us.
How Does Depression Start?
Unlike catching a bug, there isn’t one thing that we can say ‘causes’ depression. Because of that, depression is likely to start differently for different people. There are a number of things that could be a trigger for depression including bereavement, stress at work, money worries, divorce, family history, and illness. However, we don’t need to experience a traumatic event to develop depression. Sometimes it can appear for seemingly no reason at all.
Depression doesn’t always ‘start’ the same way, either. Some people might realise that they’re living with symptoms, and head to their GP, fairly quickly. Others may have been living with depression for years without realising. Furthermore, depression affects all of us differently so can start differently for different people. Some of us might find that we feel as though we’re permanently under a thick fog, for others, it could come out through anger and irritability, and others could find that it starts with physical symptoms such as a persistent headache. We are all unique, and because of that we experience things differently – depression is no exception.
How Does Depression Work?
When we experience depression, it can be due to an imbalance of hormones in our brain. We could have higher than normal levels of cortisone and adrenaline. These hormones are linked to stress. We could also have low levels of serotonin – a hormone linked with feelings of well-being. This hormone imbalance can be due to our genetic makeup or could be triggered by stressful events in our life.
How Does Depression Feel?
It can be difficult to describe how depression feels because when we’re deep in it, it can often feel almost impossible to find the words to describe what’s going on, and when we’re not so deep in it, we dont want to remember how awful it was.
We will all have different experiences of depression. But there are some common themes. Often we will feel foggy-headed. It can feel as though we’re trying to breathe through water or treacle, and moving can physically hurt. Doing anything can feel overwhelmingly difficult because it can be such a struggle to piece together the steps of each task – even something as routine as making a cup of tea. Concentration and memory can become a thing of the past, as can our ability to perform basic self-care. It can feel horrendously isolating and lonely, yet socialising can feel impossible – we often feel like a black sheep, and voices can sound so loud. We can be filled with guilt, so much so that we deem ourselves worthless and unworthy of any love or support.
Our anxiety can ramp up to the point where we are unable to leave the house, and then our bedroom, and then our bed; our comfort zone can shrink so small that it disappears. Anger can flare up within us – we can become irritable, and unreasonable. We will often recognise this, which only serves to add to the pile of things that are already fuelling our overwhelming guilt. Depression can come as a series of contradictions – a yearning to be around people, but a need to be alone. A need to prove our worth by doing things, but a complete inability to even get dressed. At times we might want to scream and shout but can’t find the words for a whisper or the energy to move.
Depression can feel horrible – yet it can be invisible. There’s no wound that we can point out to show others where it hurts. It can feel as though we’re making it up.
How Does Depression Affect Others?
When we’re dealing with low energy and a foggy brain, we might struggle to contribute to household tasks or to keep up our usual standards in our workplace. This can mean that others have to contribute more than they’re used to. We often feel lazy when this happens, and others might perceive us as lazy, but we’re not being lazy; we have an illness that’s limiting us.
Socialising can be really difficult when we’re living with depression. Energy is often in short supply, and it can be hard to compute and take part in conversations. We often feel alone even if we’re in a room of people who love us. Because of this we often avoid social situations and isolate ourselves from others.
Our depression is likely to impact those around us one way or another which can cause us to feel guilty, but it is not our fault. We didn’t choose to have depression, and we are usually doing our best to keep up with as many things as we can. Our best is good enough.
How Does Depression Affect The Brain?
The hippocampus is part of the brain that stores memories. It also regulates the production of cortisol. Our body releases cortisol whenever we get stressed. When we’re under prolonged mental stress – which happens when we experience with depression, the balance of chemicals in our body can go out of whack.
New neurons are produced in the hippocampus, but being exposed to raised cortisol levels for a long time can slow the production of these neurons and cause the neurons in our hippocampus to shrink. This can cause memory problems.
Our prefrontal cortex is responsible for regulating our emotions, helping us to make decisions, and forming memories. Raised cortisol levels can also cause our prefrontal cortex to shrink.
How Does Depression Affect Relationships?
If we are feeling guilty and struggling to like ourselves, it can be hard to believe that anyone would love us. We might even begin to believe that those we love are lying to us when they tell us that they love us – if we don’t even like ourselves then we often can’t possibly see how anyone could love us.
How Does Depression Affect Sleep?
Depression can make it hard to sleep or cause us to sleep more than we might normally do.
Insomnia is common when we have depression. This can make it hard to fall asleep, wake us up during the night, and cause us to wake up feeling more tired than we were when we went to bed. There are things that we can to do try and cope with disrupted sleep, but it can be a really difficult thing to experience.
Alternatively, we might sleep a lot. We might find that we frequently oversleep on a morning, or need to nap during the day.
How Does Depression And Anxiety Affect You?
When we live with both depression and anxiety, we might find that we feel as though we’re being pulled in two different directions. We often live with a mess of contradictions in our heads, such as anxiety telling us that we need to get things done while depression stops us from having the energy to do them. It can be incredibly distressing because it can feel like our brain is constantly at war with itself and like we never get a break.
How Does Depression Affect People?
It’s not always easy to spot if someone around us is living with depression, because it’s largely an invisible illness. However, we might begin to notice changes in people’s behaviour. For example, someone living with depression can become increasingly down, hopeless, or irritable. They may seem tired and distracted. We might notice that they’ve lost interest in things that they used to enjoy. At work, we might notice that the standard or pace of their work begins to slip.
If we are worried that someone we know is beginning to show signs of depression, we can let them know that we care, and are available to listen (if appropriate). Different things help different people so it’s important to listen and ask about the sort of things that might help, rather than just assuming the things that the person might want or need.
Although Google can be really helpful in giving us some answers, if we’re concerned about ourselves or someone else, there are places who can offer us some support. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your GP if anything you’ve read resonates with what you are experiencing.
Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it.