A person can develop depression for a lot of different reasons. For example, long-term stress that you can do nothing about and loss of or conflict with someone important to you can cause you to become depressed. Sometimes, however, it is not possible to pinpoint anything in particular that happened before you became depressed. This is particularly true if you have repeated episodes of depression.
Just under half of all women and a quarter of all men in Sweden experience depression that may require treatment at some point in their lives.
If you have depression, you rarely feel happy, not even when you do something that you normally enjoy. You have little or no desire or energy to do anything, and even everyday activities can seem hard and sluggish. You may often experience anxiety, have difficulty concentrating and sleep badly. You may be less interested or have no interest in sex.
The body experiences depression in a variety of ways. In addition to fatigue, it is common to experience palpitations or to have back or abdominal pain.
When you are depressed, you may think that it would be better to be dead. This is often linked to feelings of anxiety, self-loathing and hopelessness about the future. Someone who is very depressed may even attempt to commit suicide.
Most people who experience depression and get the right treatment begin to feel a lot better after just a few weeks. It is therefore important to ask for help if you think that you have depression. Physical activity has been shown to help with depression and sometimes just changing your habits in terms of sleeping and exercise can be enough to help. Depending on where you turn for help, you can usually get counselling, psychotherapy or medication.
It is important during treatment to maintain regular contact with your doctor. It is common to require several appointments before finding the right treatment.
When should I get treatment?
If you feel low for at least two weeks and have other symptoms of depression, you can contact a health centre (vårdcentral) or psychiatric out-patient clinic (psykiatrisk öppenvårdsmottagning). You can always call the medical advice line for advice.
If you feel very bad and that you cannot go on, have suicidal thoughts or plan to take your own life, you should immediately seek help at a psyciatric out-patient clinic or emergancy clinic (akutmottagning) or call 112. This is also what you should do if someone close to you feels so bad that he or she is planning to take their own life.
What is depression?
In everyday speech people often say that they are “depressed” or “down” when they feel sad, low or out of sorts. However, the word “depression” actually refers to a more serious condition that requires treatment. With depression, the brain’s neurotransmitters become unbalanced, which affects, among other things, emotions, motivation and sleep. Examples of neurotransmitters that are known to play an important role in depression are serotonin and noradrenaline. Medication for depression helps to restore the balance.
A normal low mood can sometimes develop into depression, and the dividing line between the two conditions is not sharp but more fluid. Factors that determine whether or not you have depression have to do with the duration of your low mood and how you perceive your existence during this time.
If you feel low and hopeless every day for more than two weeks and have lost the desire to do things you normally enjoy and experience feelings of meaninglessness, you may have become depressed.
It is possible for a person to start developing depression without noticing any change. Sometimes it is the people closest to you who spot the symptoms of depression.
Keep in contact
It is important not to avoid social contact. It can therefore help to try to keep in contact with your friends, your workplace or other social settings.
Reduce any demands on you
As depression means that you have less energy, it is usually difficult to perform at the same level as before. You must also try to reduce any demands from your private and family life too. In order to be able to start feeling better, it may be necessary to rest by giving up some activities that you feel obliged to do. You need to be able to say no to things that you cannot manage or cope with.
Good quality sleep is important if you want to feel healthy. If you have difficulty sleeping, you can try reading or listening to music or an audio book to take your mind off things.
Learning a relaxation technique can also be a useful way of managing stress and getting more rest in everyday life.
Daylight is important for mental wellbeing. That is why it is a good idea to take a walk or go out cycling in the middle of the day when it is lightest. Having good lighting at home and at work can have a positive effect on your mood.
Choose pleasurable things to do even if you don’t feel like it
It is important to do things that you normally enjoy, even if you don’t feel like it at the time. If you normally enjoy music, playing or listening to music may make you feel better, even if you didn’t think it would at the start.
It is important to eat regularly, even if you do not have much of an appetite. Trying to maintain good eating habits is particularly important when you are depressed or are recovering from depression.