Depression is not just about having a bad day. Dr Joe Kosterich gives a brief summary about depression, including symptoms, types of depression, and how to treat depression.

Video: Depression introductionIt’s thought that depression will affect as many as 1 in 5 people throughout the course of their life so it’s a very, very common condition. Once, anyone with a mental illness was sort of stigmatised to some degree, but today we realise that depression in some respects is the same as asthma, or heart disease, or diabetes, or a broken leg or any other condition that may affect an individual. As I said before, it is in fact very, very common.

In a brief video, we can’t go into a lot of details about all aspects and different forms of depression, so just to give a brief summary, depression is not just about you having a bad day. People sometimes think, my footy team lost or I haven’t had the best day at work so does that mean I’m depressed, and the answer to that is of course, no. Depression is when you’re feeling very down, really quite bad, and that’s regardless of what’s going on around you. This is what’s known as endogenous depression, so even if you’ve just won the lottery and $2 million, you’re still going to feel down. You don’t feel good about what you’re doing, you don’t have motivation, you’re often tired, you may get headaches, and you just don’t really feel that there’s a lot of point or purpose in doing what you do and carrying on.

Reactive depression – and I must point out that these two terms are not used that much any more but they are still useful – is when people have become depressed in response to particular events in their life.

So in looking at treating depression, there are two broad paths that one looks to go down, and the most important thing is to be upfront and recognise that there may be a problem. If you’re normally a reasonably happy person, normally reasonably bouncy and get on with things but you’re finding that that’s just not happening, then it is really important to go and have a chat with your doctor about it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are depressed, but it may do and if it does, then there’s plenty that can be done to assist you.

As we touched on earlier, there are two broad forms of treatment and they are pharmaceutical and counselling-type treatments, and often people will need a combination of both. Fortunately these days we have a number of antidepressants that can be used and they are much, much better today than 20–25 years ago when side effects really were a problem. Side effects with any medication can occur so if you’re prescribed an antidepressant and you’re finding that’s an issue, you do need to discuss it with your doctor because there are a number of options. The medication these days are quite affective, they are not addictive, but you may need to be on them for a period of time and you shouldn’t just stop them suddenly.

The other line of treatment is counselling-type treatment and that’s about helping people to work through issues or work through some of their feelings. Again, there are a number of possibilities with this. Some people may do it through their GP; some people may elect to see a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or go and have a chat with their counsellor; for some people, it’s helpful just to have a chat to their friends. For many people with depression just the capacity to get things off their chest can be quite helpful as part of their therapy. There are other approaches and forms such as art therapy and music therapy, which are getting quite popular; journaling has its supporters as well, just getting your feelings down on paper.

So, a couple of things. First of all, depression is very, very common. Number two, it doesn’t make you abnormal or any different to somebody with any other type of medical condition. It’s something that you’ve got and there are some things you may want to do about it. Number three, there is plenty of help and treatment available, and it really is just a matter of putting your hand up, going to see your doctor and making a start, and that will be the first step of coming out of depression.

Useful resource

MindSpot logo The MindSpot Clinic is a free telephone and online service for Australian adults troubled by symptoms of anxiety or depression. The service is run by a team of health professionals and provides free Online Screening Assessments, free Treatment Courses and can assist in finding local services that can help. To speak to one of the team call 1800 614 434 between 8am -8pm AEST Monday to Friday and 8am – 6pm AEST on Saturday or visit MindSpot Clinic.