Everybody feels down or sad at times. But it’s important to be able to recognise when depression has become more than a temporary thing, and when to seek help.
The following are a list of the features that may be experienced by someone with depression.
- Lowered self-esteem
- Change in sleep patterns
- Change in mood control
- Varying emotions throughout the day
- Change in appetite and weight
- Reduced ability to enjoy things
- Reduced ability to tolerate pain
- Reduced sex drive
- Suicidal thoughts
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Loss of motivation and drive
- Increase in fatigue
- Change in movement
- Being out of touch with reality.
As a general rule of thumb, if your feelings of depression persist for most of every day for two weeks or longer, and interfere with your ability to manage at home or outside the home, then you would benefit from assessment by a skilled professional.
It’s also important to recognise that many of the above features could be caused by or related to other things, such as a physical illness, the effects of medications, or stress. A trained professional will help in assessing such things.
Allow yourself to seek help. Struggling on alone can prolong the depression.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP FOR BIPOLAR DISORDER
If you have experienced an episode of mania or hypomania, it’s best to seek professional help as soon as possible. It may indicate that you have bipolar disorder, which, if left untreated, will likely involve further episodes of mania or hypomania. Bipolar disorder is not an illness which goes away of its own accord but which often needs long-term treatment.
- High energy levels – with the individual feeling ‘wired’ and ‘hyper’, extremely energetic, experiencing racing thoughts, talking more and talking over people, making decisions in a flash, being constantly on the go, and feeling less need for sleep.
- Positive mood – feeling confident and capable, optimistic, that one can succeed in everything, more creative, happier and perhaps feeling ‘high as a kite’.
- Irritability – reflected in irritable, impatient and angry behaviours.
- Inappropriate behaviour – becoming overinvolved in other people’s activities, by increased risk taking (including overindulging in alcohol and drugs and gambling excessively), saying and doing outrageous things, spending more money, having increased libido; dressing more colourfully and with disinhibition.
- Creativity – experienced as ‘seeing things in a new light’, seeing things vividly and with crystal clarity, finding one’s senses are heightened and feeling quite capable of writing the ‘great Australian novel’.
- Mystical experiences – can be experienced by believing that there are special connections between events, that there is a higher rate of coincidence between things happening, feeling intensely at one with nature and appreciating the beauty of it and the world around, believing that things have special significance.
More extreme expressions of mania (but not hypomania) may have the added features of delusions and hallucinations.
Accurately diagnosing bipolar disorder is a task for a professional. A first step is to see your local GP, who will likely refer you to a psychiatrist for assessment and treatment.