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ALL THE FACTS YOU NEED TO AVOID HEARTACHE No.18 DEPRESSION
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The Independent Culture
The facts

4 million people suffer from depression in this country at any one time - 1.5 million of them would be categorised as suffering from mild depression

1 in 4 people suffers from a depressive illness at some point in their life

Calls to helplines for

depression double during the month of January

The annual cost of UK depression in 1995 was pounds 8bn - pounds 500m for medication, pounds 4bn for sickness, pounds 3.5bn for lost production

Depression is known as the "common cold" of psychiatry as it is the most commonly encountered mental illness

Doctors don't have specific laboratory tests for depression, so their diagnoses are primarily based on the patient's behaviour and symptoms

Depression can be treated effectively in 90 per cent of cases

If three or more of these symptoms are experienced for more than two weeks it may be advisable to consult a doctor. This list may not be exhaustive.

Sadness, lack of energy, flat moods, extreme mood swings, thoughts of suicide, feelings of pessimism, paranoia

Guilt, low self-esteem

Lack of motivation and decrease in concentration

Palpitations, diarrhoea or constipation, worrying disproportionately, panic attacks, loss of interest in sex and food, weight loss or gain, loss of periods in women, sweating, insomnia

Diagnosis and treatment

Up to 40 per cent of people suffering from depression first visit their doctor for treatment of a secondary symptom such as headaches or weight loss. From there, the doctor has to detect depression as the cause of the symptom, then identify the underlying cause of the depression. Treatments may include medication, counselling, talking treatments and self-help.

Possible underlying causes of depression * n Relationship problems, bereavement, redundancy, financial pressures

Low self-esteem, difficult childhood, anxiety

Illness, infection, surgery

Childbirth

Loneliness

Alcohol, drugs or food addictions

Side-effects of medication

Excessive caffeine intake

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Talking treatments

Psychotherapy - the patient uses the therapist as a way of working out and resolving patterns of behaviour

Counselling - the therapist reflects back what the patient has said to help them analyse their thoughts. Call the British Association of Counselling - 01788 578328

Behavioural Therapy - recognises damaging behavioural patterns and encourages more appropriate behaviour

Cognitive Therapy - aims to change feelings of low self-esteem

Family Therapy - offers advice on improving family interactions

Medical treatments

Antidepressants correct the imbalance in the chemical make up of the brain which causes the depression. They are not addictive and are often used in addition to therapy and counselling. Patients sometimes need to take several medications simultaneously.

Self-help

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Try and understand your illness by reading as much as you can about it

Watch your intake of alcohol carefully

Exercise and eat a healthy and regular diet

Take vitamin and mineral supplements

Confide in a friend or relative about your illness.

Explore complementary therapies such as yoga, acupuncture and reflexology

Call the Depression Alliance for listings of self-help groups - 0171- 633 9929 and get their special leaflet Beating Depression at Christmas for 40p

Other types of depression

People with manic depression suffer from dramatic mood swings. Call: Manic Depression Fellowship - 0181-974 6550

Postnatal depression occurs after giving birth as a result of hormonal changes and/or the pressure of increased responsibilities

Seasonal Affective Disorder affects the level of melatonin in the body and is more common in winter. Contact SADA - 01903 814942

Help

Mind - The National Association for Mental Health - 0181-519 2122

Samaritans - 0345 909090

SANEline - 0345 678000

Compiled by the authors of `Women Unlimited: The Directory for Life', published by Penguin, price pounds 9.99

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