Periods of grief. Everyone is familiar with feeling down. They are just as much a part of human existence as phases of happiness. It is not always easy to recognize when this becomes a depression.
At a glance
Depression is very common. About 16 to 20 out of 100 people will develop the condition in the course of their lives.
The illness has many faces. Signs include depressed mood, loss of interest, and lack of drive.
Depression is usually easy to treat. There are different ways. The most important are psychotherapy. Medication (antidepressants). Together with your doctor or psychotherapist, decide which treatment is most appropriate in your case.
Signs of depression
Certain signs indicate that a depressive illness is present and not just a temporary feeling of low spirits. The three most important signs are:
Depressed, depressive mood
If you have two of these three signs for longer than 2 weeks, it may indicate depression.
Other symptoms may also occur:
reduced concentration and attention
Decreased self-esteem and self-confidence
feelings of guilt and worthlessness
Exaggerated fears about the future and "seeing the black"
thoughts or attempts to kill oneself
Physical complaints can also be an expression of depression. They include gastrointestinal problems, pain, dizziness or shortness of breath. Depending on how many signs are present, experts distinguish between three degrees of severity of depression: mild, moderate and severe.
The two-question test
Initial indications of depression can be provided by a simple test: the two-question test.
In the last month, have you often felt down, sad, depressed, or hopeless??
In the last month, have you had significantly less pleasure and enjoyment from things you usually like to do?
If you answer "yes" to both questions it is advisable to consult a doctor or psychotherapist.
A doctor or psychotherapist will ask you in detail about the signs of the disease. He may also ask you to fill out questionnaires. A frank conversation is crucial to find out if you have depression and how severe it is. Questions about other complaints and physical examinations can be added to rule out other diseases.
Depression can usually be treated well with psychotherapy or antidepressants. The two can also be combined. In addition, other methods may be considered, such as awake therapy or light therapy. Exercise and physical training complement treatment.
The treatment that is right for you depends on the severity of the disorder. Your needs, and life circumstances are also important:
Mild depression: Together with your doctor or therapist, you can initially wait and see. If the symptoms do not improve, he should offer you psychotherapy. Antidepressants should not be used in general.
Moderate depression: You should be offered either psychotherapy or treatment with antidepressants.
There are also easily accessible offers, such as self-help manuals, DVDs or online programs with exercises and suggestions. These can help if you are not yet able to start personal therapy, or if you have a mild depression. Even without treatment, depression often subsides after a period of time. However, if the illness remains untreated, it may recur and last longer.
For more information on treatment, see the patient guideline (see "Explained in detail" below).
What you can do yourself
The most important step is to go to a doctor or psychotherapist. You do not have to feel ashamed. Depression, like a physical illness, is not a matter of guilt: no one would hesitate to see a doctor because of back pain.
It may help to take to the doctor or psychotherapist a person you trust. It can support you. Describing your mood "from the outside.
By seeking treatment, you have already taken an important step. Be prepared for the fact that such treatment will take time. Many sufferers experience a first improvement after 2 to 4 weeks.
Sports and exercise are important. You do not have to perform at a high level. Try to set yourself small, achievable goals: a walk in the fresh air, a short ride on your bike. Choose what you like to do.
Other small activities can also help: A phone call to a friend, a date, a trip to the hairdresser or a home-cooked meal can be small successes.
Crises are easier to overcome with support. Accept offers of talk and help from your family and friends.
Perhaps it will help you to exchange ideas with other people affected by depression. Then you can turn to a self-help group.