Recognising depression: signs & treatment


Joyless, listless and empty inside: for many people, depression feels like a big black hole. But this illness has different faces.

Recognising depression

Depression is very common: every fifth person is affected by depression during the course of their lifetime. However, recognising depression in oneself or in others isn’t always easy. Like all mental conditions, depression can't be ‘seen’ from the outside, but must be identified on the basis of certain criteria.

Signs vary

Those affected not only feel acute sadness and dejection, but also lose all interest in things that used to give them pleasure. «You can if you really want to», is what people affected by depression often hear. But this is simply not true, experts insist.

Typical signs of depression

  • Low mood
  • Loss of interest
  • Inner emptiness
  • Listlessness
  • Sleep disorders
  • Loss of appetite

Depression manifests differently in men and women

To some extent, depression shows up differently in women and men. Men don't always experience the well-known symptoms of feelings of inner emptiness, a low sense of self-worth and mood swings. They tend to be more aggressive and irritable, and try to suppress their negative emotions and feelings of hopelessness.

Of course, we can’t make sweeping generalisations. But in the interests of men's health it's important to recognise such symptoms at an early stage, because depression is more seldom diagnosed in men.

Depression as an illness

Depression has nothing to do with bad habits, or even laziness. Instead, it is a serious illness in which the metabolism in the brain also plays a significant role. When a person suffers from depression, their body’s entire stress hormone system is often over-activated. There are indications that in particular the nerve transmitters serotonin, noradrenalin and dopamine are out of balance.

Depression vs depressed mood

Depression shouldn't be confused with a temporary negative mood. Everyone experiences negative feelings like grief, gloom or lethargy and these are part of life. Negative feelings are completely normal, especially after a stroke of fate or during periods of excessive stress, and even form part of a «healthy reaction». Only when they are chronic or your daily activities are severely affected could depression be the cause.

See a doctor – yes or no?

If you feel some of the above-mentioned criteria apply to yourself or to a person close to you, depression could be the cause.

What now? Is it necessary to go straight to a doctor?

Two points are relevant in deciding whether professional help should be sought: your particular level of suffering and the impairment felt. What exactly does this mean? If you perceive the current situation as highly stressful and as causing you to suffer, you should seek professional help. The same applies if the symptoms affect your performance at work or hinder activities in your personal life or free time. For example, if you can no longer fulfil your professional and personal obligations or your relationships are suffering.

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