What is depression?
Depression can be a difficult thing to define, and harder to explain what it is you’re actually feeling to others.
Depression doesn’t just take one form and it isn’t just “feeling sad” – it can impact everyone very differently. It can sometimes completely stop people functioning in day to day activities, it can sometimes come and then disappear and sometimes people can convince others they’re absolutely fine for years on end.
It’s also not something that tends to magically go away when someone says “cheer up”!
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Do I have depression?
Whilst depression can hit everyone differently, there’s a few things that tend to come up a lot for people experiencing it.
If you do feel some of these things it doesn’t automatically give you a diagnosis of depression. If they persist and you’re wondering about a diagnosis, that’s something you may want to speak to a GP about.
low energy levels or no motivation
being more irritable than usual
having low self-esteem
feeling numb or empty
avoiding other people
self-harming or suicidal thoughts
Importantly, if you’re feeling some of the things above, or similar things, it doesn’t mean you’re always going to feel the same way!
I think I'm feeling those things
It might help to not think of it as a “battle”. “Fighting depression” or “battling your demons” are punchy phrases that get thrown around in the media, but the problem is that your emotions, feelings, “demons”, “black dogs”, “dementors” or whatever else you want to call them are a part of you, so in the end you’re only beating up on yourself.
Working with difficult feelings, acknowledging them and finding ways to manage them day to day can be more productive and it’s definitely less exhausting.
Try not to make yourself feel bad for feeling bad! Feeling guilty that you’re not “happy” tends to make things feel worse. There’s a few tips below that may help these feelings, and you may find your own way to manage difficult emotions, but sometimes you might just feel rubbish. And that’s OK. It’s OK to not be OK.
Some people take anti-depressants, some don’t. Different people’s bodies react to a variety of drugs in very different ways – what works for one person might not have the same impact, or the same side effects, on someone else. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all pill.
If you do take anti-depressants it’s good to talk honestly with your GP or person who prescribed them. There’s usually a period of adjustment, working out what right prescription and dosage is for you, and that brings ups and downs. Sometimes there’s side effects and sometimes things can feel a little worse to begin with and it’s always important to be honest about what your feeling with whoever has prescribed them.
If there’s only one piece of advice from here you take away it should be this:
Talk about it!
Whatever you’re feeling don’t go through it alone. Talk to a friend, parent, carer, teacher, doctor, youth worker… anyone you trust. If you’re struggling to find someone there’s a bunch of websites on our “find support” page and a heap of youth groups on our “stuff near me” page that might help to find that person too.
Fancy people (well, scientists) have done tons of research into depression and tend to agree that a there’s a few day to day things that can help improve general wellbeing.
Connect… with others. Try to spend time with family or friends, online or offline. Having real chats with people is even better – those chats where you tell people what you’re actually feeling not just what they want to hear!
Be curious… take notice. Stop and take notice of the world around you whether it’s the sunset, the shape of the clouds or the weird colour of the wall you’ve never noticed. Being curious about the world around can help to take you out of head, even for a little while. Sometimes this is called being “mindful”.
Try something new… have a go. Whether it’s having a hobby, joining a youth club, learning a musical instrument, nailing the top score on a new game – doing something different and improving your skills and knowledge is great.
Give… do something for others. This could be anything from volunteering your time to saying thank you to the harassed bus driver in the morning. Things like this can help you feel positive but also mean that you are making connections with others.
Be active… have some exercise. Whether it’s running, cycling, walking, dancing or football; exercise can help beat the blues, even if it’s taking the stairs instead of the lift or jumping of the bus one stop early.
There’s also dozens of apps around “Mindfulness”. It’s a practice that can really help if you can get into it.
We sometimes think of it like exercise or eating your vegetables – it may not always be at the top of the list of fun things to do, but no one’s going to say it’s not clearly good for you!
There’s a few YouTube videos from HeadSpace that probably explain it better than we can!
Headspace video 1 Headspace video 2
And The Mix has a bunch of videos and resources on this topic as well