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Am I depressed?

Depression isn’t just about feeling sad. Persistent tiredness, lack of motivation to do things, lack of interest, or a general sense of feeling “flat” could all be signs that you’re experiencing depression.

This page helps you to spot the signs of depression and offers guidance on what to do if you think you may be depressed.

 

How do I know if I have depression?

A lot of people who think of depression assume you have to be “sad” to be depressed, but many of the symptoms aren’t what you might immediately associate with depression. You might be depressed if you’re experiencing any of the following for at least the last two weeks:

  1. Persistent sadness or low mood.
  2. Loss of interest or pleasure from the things you used to enjoy.
  3. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much.
  4. Decreased or increased appetite.
  5. Feeling more tired than usual and lacking in energy.
  6. Moving or speaking slowly – or feeling fidgety and restless.
  7. Difficulty with concentrating or making decisions.
  8. Feeling worthless and bad about yourself, or feeling guilty about a lot of things.
  9. Poor appetite or overeating.
  10. Feeling bad about yourself – or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down.
  11. Feeling like you might be better off dead.

You only need to have five of these symptoms for a doctor to diagnose depression.

If you want to, you can also use this self-assessment tool from the NHS for depression.

Aren’t these feelings normal?

Later life often involves changes that can be difficult to cope with. This could  be the loss of family, friends, or a partner. It could  be retirement, and feeling  as if you no longer have a routine. It could also be having a diagnosis of a condition like diabetes or arthritis.

There’s nothing unusual about feeling stressed, anxious, or deeply sad about these experiences. Grief is a normal reaction to events like these, but after a time – even a long time – things should get better. The difference is that depression is persistent – the feelings don’t go away.

Depression is not a normal or inevitable part of ageing. It is something which can be treated, just as you can treat a physical condition. Even if depression  was an inevitable part of ageing, why would that be a reason not to treat it? It’s common to need a hip replacement or cataract surgery as we get older, but we’re still happy to receive the treatment and restore our abilities.

But I’m not the sort of person who has depression!

There is no “type” of person who gets depression. Depression can affect anybody – 1 in 10 people are affected by depression at some point. 1 in 5 older people in particular are affected. People can experience depression no matter how “successful” they might appear to be. It’s no sign of personal failure to be affected by it.

You might wonder “where are all these people?” – but compared to a physical illness, it can be much harder to tell if someone else is struggling with  poor mental health. After all, many of us are good at hiding our emotions, and are even proud or our abilities in that area!

Finally, it can be hard to imagine you have depression if you can’t find an explanation for it. For many people, depression can be triggered by difficult life circumstances like bereavement or moving away from family and friends. But for many people, there is no discernible cause to their depression. It is possible for depression to “just happen”.

Does this mean I have depression, then?

Not necessarily – even if some of the symptoms above apply to you, things like tiredness or anxiety can also have other causes. Only a doctor can make the call and give you a diagnosis. So if you’re worried that you might have depression, and you want to know whether you need any treatment, the best thing to do is to visit your GP.

Reasons you might not want to see the GP

I want to see if I can deal with it myself

We have some pages on our tackling depression section that cover the things you can do to improve your mood. You might find it useful to read our guidance on getting active, managing your diet, cutting down on alcohol and trying out mindfulness.

These can help someone with mild symptoms of depression, but if you have quite a few of the symptoms listed above and they’re affecting your day to day life quite significantly, then these strategies may not be enough. If you had an acute heart condition, or type 2 diabetes, you wouldn’t try to “sort it out” yourself. You wouldn’t just say that you need to “pull yourself together”. You would simply get it treated.

It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Depression can affect anybody, no matter how well they usually think they “hold things together”. If anything, it takes courage to admit you need help.

I don’t want family or friends to know

Don’t worry – your GP isn’t allowed to share anyone’s medical notes without their permission. The only case where they are allowed to share information is if a patient is at risk of harming themselves.

I don’t want to be on medication

Medication isn’t the only treatment for depression, and it is only considered if you have moderate to severe depression or if other treatments haven’t worked. For more information on how depression is treated, read our guidance on mild depression here and our guidance on moderate to severe depression here.

We’ve also put together a page answering common questions about medication, which you can read here.

What if the GP sends me away?

You won’t be wasting your doctor’s time by talking to them about depression. Doctors are trained to treat both physical and mental health problems, and to consider them equally important for treatment. Depression is a complex medical condition, not something you could snap out of any more than you can snap out of a heart condition.

Want to talk to someone?

Call the HERE helpline to talk to someone confidentially. We can talk through your situation and see what wider help you might benefit from – particularly if you’re stressed because of money, or struggling with isolation.