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What is depression?

While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, some people experience these feelings intensely, for long periods of time (weeks, months or even years) and sometimes without any apparent reason. Depression is more than just a low mood – it’s a serious condition that affects a person’s physical and mental health.

Signs and symptoms

Depression is usually considered as a diagnosis if for more than two weeks, a person has felt sad, down or miserable most of the time, or has lost interest or pleasure in usual activities, and has also experienced several of the signs and symptoms across at least three of the categories below.

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences some of these symptoms from time to time, and it may not necessarily mean they’re depressed. Equally, not everyone who is experiencing depression will have all of these symptoms.

  • Behaviour
    • not going out anymore
    • not getting things done at work/school
    • withdrawing from close family and friends
    • relying on alcohol and sedatives
    • not doing usual enjoyable activities
    • unable to concentrate
  • Feelings
    • overwhelmed
    • guilty
    • irritable
    • frustrated
    • lacking in confidence
    • unhappy
    • indecisive
    • disappointed
    • miserable
    • sad
  • Thoughts
    • ‘I’m a failure.’
    • ‘It’s my fault.’
    • ‘Nothing good ever happens to me.’
    • ‘I’m worthless.’
    • ‘Life’s not worth living.’
    • ‘People would be better off without me.’
  • Physical
    • tired all the time
    • sick and run down
    • headaches and muscle pains
    • churning gut
    • sleep problems
    • loss or change of appetite
    • significant weight loss or gain

While we don’t know exactly what causes depression, a number of things are often linked to its development. Depression usually results from a combination of recent events and other longer-term or personal factors, rather than one immediate issue or event.

Life events

Research suggests that continuing difficulties – long-term unemployment, living in an abusive or uncaring relationship, long-term isolation or loneliness, prolonged work stress – are more likely to cause depression than recent life stresses. However, recent events (such as losing your job) or a combination of events can ‘trigger’ depression if you’re already at risk because of previous bad experiences or personal factors.

Personal Factors

FAMILY HISTORY – Depression can run in families and some people will be at an increased genetic risk. However, having a parent or close relative with depression doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have the same experience. Life circumstances and other personal factors are still likely to have an important influence.

PERSONALITY – Some people may be more at risk of depression because of their personality, particularly if they have a tendency to worry a lot, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, are sensitive to personal criticism, or are self-critical and negative.

SERIOUS MEDICAL ILLNESS – The stress and worry of coping with a serious illness can lead to depression, especially if you’re dealing with long-term management and/or chronic pain.

DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE – Drug and alcohol use can both lead to and result from depression. Many people with depression also have drug and alcohol problems. Over 500,000 Australians will experience depression and a substance use disorder at the same time, at some point in their lives.

Treatments for depression

It is important to remember that depression is very treatable.

Please also note that this information is not meant to take the place of consultation and assessment with a GP, psychologist or clinical social worker. If you think you or someone you know might be depressed, please see a GP or mental health clinician.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact emergency services on 000, your local mental health service on 1300 MH CALL, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For more information about depression, you can visit Beyond Blue’s website.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where we feel under pressure, they usually pass once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed.

Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t go away – when they’re ongoing and happen without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life. Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but for someone experiencing anxiety, these feelings aren’t easily controlled.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life1. In a 12-month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety.

Anxiety is common, but the sooner people with anxiety get support, the more likely they are to recover.

Types of anxiety

Many people with anxiety experience symptoms of more than one type of anxiety condition, and may experience depression as well. It’s important to seek support early if you’re experiencing anxiety. Your symptoms may not go away on their own and if left untreated, they can start to take over your life.

There are different types of anxiety. The most common conditions are:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Panic Disorder.

Anxiety is also a feature of other conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of anxiety conditions are sometimes not all that obvious as they often develop slowly over time and, given we all experience some anxiety at various points in our lives, it can be hard to know how much is too much.

Normal anxiety tends to be limited in time and connected with some stressful situation or event, such as a job interview. The type of anxiety experienced by people with an anxiety condition is more frequent or persistent, not always connected to an obvious challenge, and impacts on their quality of life and day-to-day functioning. While each anxiety condition has its own unique features, there are some common symptoms including:

Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy

Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking

Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life.

Treatments for anxiety

Effective treatment for anxiety helps you learn how to control your anxiety so it doesn’t control you. The type of treatment will depend on the type of anxiety you’re experiencing.

For mild symptoms your health professional might suggest lifestyle changes, such as regular physical exercise and reducing your stress levels. You might also like to try online e-therapies, many of which are free, anonymous and easily accessible for anyone with internet access. Where symptoms of anxiety are moderate to severe, psychological and/or medical treatments are likely to be required.

There are a number of psychological treatments for anxiety including cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), mindfulness-based therapies, and combinations or variations of these. The most important thing to remember about psychological therapies for anxiety is that your clinician needs to help you find the one that is right for you and the problems you are having. There is no ‘one size fits all’ anxiety treatment. At The Glow Centre, in our first sessions with you we will help develop a treatment plan tailored to you, which helps optimise the chances of success.

For more information about anxiety, you can visit Beyond Blue’s website – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety

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