1. Know how you feel
Everyone of us has fluctuating moods. Sometimes there can be an obvious reason, like a bereavement or loss of a job. But other times we can be feeling low with no apparent cause.
Depression is feeling low in mood for weeks or months rather than days. It's part of my job as a GP to try to work if you are depressed and, more importantly, help people find solutions that can tackle it. It is best to seek help as soon as you are worried in any way about your mood. The sooner you get treatment and support, the quicker you will get better.
Most people can fully recover from depression if they get the right treatment. If you're unsure of what symptoms to look out for, our test can help.
2. Depression Risk
This questionnaire contains eight questions about common symptoms of depression. You should answer based upon how you have been feeling the last two weeks. Click or tap below to start.
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If you are urgently worried about mental health, you should let a trusted friend or relative know and contact a health professional, like your GP or NHS 111. You can also call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 or go to your nearest A&E department. (The PHQ-9 was developed by Dr Robert L Spitzer, Dr Janet B W Williams, Dr Kurt Kroenke and colleagues, with an educational grant from Pfizer Inc.)
3. What can you do?
The most important thing to remember is that help is available. Depression isn't a problem you need to solve on your own.
The first port of call for you to consider is going to see your GP. We're trained to assess you and can talk over your options for treatment. For some patients, I might prescribe a course of antidepressants. But there are other options too, like talking therapies.
This might take the form of a psychotherapy, like interpersonal therapy where you talk to a counsellor about your relationships with other people, or cognitive behavioural therapy, which teaches you strategies for dealing with different problems. There may even be other forms of therapy available on the NHS in your area, such as art therapy. Often we consider combining different treatments to try and get the best result.
But in conjunction with therapies and treatments from professionals, there are also things you can do to help yourself. Exercise and diet are key to your mental as well as physical health.
There's evidence that exercise can help lift your mood and while no single foodstuff can cure depression, a diet high in vegetables, fruit and fish but low in processed foods, has been shown to help manage depression.
You might be tempted to use alcohol or drugs to make yourself feel better. Ultimately they will not help you and may make your symptoms worse.
Your instinct could be to retreat from the world. If possible fight against this and try to get out to meet people or take part in an activity. Tell someone you trust this is how you feel and ask them to help you to engage if you're finding it hard.
Try to be kind to yourself though. If you're suffering from depression, you will have some difficult days. Don't make them harder by setting targets which you might struggle to achieve.
4. Felicity's story
Felicity was diagnosed with depression in 2014. She said:
When I made an appointment with my GP I was planning to discuss an ear infection. But when he asked how I was feeling I just broke down and told him everything about how I was feeling.
I’d had a really tough year having recently broken up with my long-term boyfriend.
My GP asked me whether I’d ever felt this way before and whether I’d ever taken any medication before. He signed me off work for a timescale that we agreed together, discussed medication options and printed off some information about antidepressants should I wish to take them.
He also referred me for an assessment for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and suggested I stay with a friend or family member and return at the end of my sign-off period to discuss the future.
CBT didn't work for me, although I know it's been effective for others. When I went back to the GP after two weeks, I decided to take an antidepressant called citalopram and he signed me off for a further week, and then another. I keep taking it for a number of months but when I felt that I'd recovered enough I stopped.
A lot of what has happened was down to my brilliant GP, who was so much better than I ever could have hoped.