When I turned sixty, I went to my doctor for a check up. He suggested that I could be suffering from what he described as ‘low level depression’. It prompted me to do some reading on the topic.
According to the World Heath Organization, depression is the planet’s leading cause of disability and affects 121 million people. About twenty per cent of us suffer from depression during our lives and about one in fifty experience generalized anxiety.
Depression is not sadness. Sadness is a natural and normal emotion. The low mood of sadness lingers for a time but then lifts. Depression is different. When depression settles and you just can’t move it no matter what you do.
Most of us are familiar with the symptoms of depression – a tendency to withdraw, avoiding people, loss of interest in life. Things you used to enjoy are no longer fun and nothing seems to flow. In clinical depression these core symptoms settle.
There are other symptoms to watch out for including anxiety, negative thinking, over sleeping or not being able to sleep, difficulty concentrating, finding it hard to make decisions, tiredness, eating problems, feeling guilty, feeling agitated or slowed down.
The figure of 20% of people suffering from depression hasn’t changed over the years and yet it seems that depression is much more common today. One reason for this is that depression is occurring earlier and tends to reoccur. Fifty years ago a first encounter with depression occurred in late middle age and because life expectancy was about sixty five to seventy there was little time for reoccurrence. Today the average age for a first depression is twenty six and the most frequent age is thirteen to fifteen and because it is happening earlier there is plenty of time for it to reoccur. Fifty per cent of people who recover from their first depression have another bout in the following year. And once you have been depressed once there is a seventy to eighty per cent chance that it will return again.
The first bout of depression usually results from some dramatic life event, such as a death in the family, bullying or losing one’s job. It takes much less to trigger a second and third bout.