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Depression

Depression

How Common is Depression?

How do I know when I am Depressed?

What Causes Depression?

Treatments for Depression

Depression

Following a heart attack or heart surgery, many people notice changes in their mood or emotional well-being.  Having a serious illness can cause many people to become depressed.  Usually this is just a temporary low.  Typically, people's mood will improve in a short time and get back to normal.  However, for some people the low mood can persist and dominate their lives.

Unfortunately, depression is now well recognised as a primary risk factor for further cardiac illness.  In other words, people who are depressed following a heart attack are more likely to have another heart attack.  It is therefore important to be aware of your emotional well-being.

This section aims to describe the features of depression and how treatment can help.

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How Common is Depression?

Depression is the most common mental health problem in the world.  It is estimated that more than half of us will experience significant symptoms of depression at some point in our life.  Around 5% of the general population are thought to be depressed at any given time.  When considering populations who are physically ill, this figure is thought to be more than three times higher.  Therefore, depression following a heart attack or heart surgery is very common.

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How do I know when I am Depressed?

There are numerous symptoms of depression.  We have summarised some of the ways depression can impact on key areas of your life.  It is important to appreciate you don't have to experience all the symptoms to be depressed.  Depression can vary from being mild to severe.  The number and severity of the symptoms will vary accordingly. 

Mood
Perhaps the most obvious symptom of depression is a low mood.  People often describe feeling sad or numb for most of the day nearly everyday. 

Altered Behaviour
Depression often causes people's behaviour to change to some extent.  They may demonstrate less interest in everyday activities and struggle to enjoy things that they used to.  Because of this, they often withdraw from many activities and can gradually develop a quite unfulfilling daily routine. 

Altered Thinking
When people are depressed their style of thinking often changes.  They think about themselves, everything around them, and their future in a very negative or pessimistic way.  They are quick to identify the worst aspects of any situation and readily blame themselves for anything that goes wrong.  When people are more severely depressed, they may have thought that life is not worth living anymore.

Other Common Changes
Peoples functioning can become altered when they are depressed.  Concentration on even simple tasks can be difficult, impairing decision making or memory.  Usual sleep patterns may be disturbed.  People may have difficulty falling asleep or find they are sleeping more than before.  People's appetite may increase or decrease.  As a result weight gain or loss may occur.  The person's sex drive is often reduced.  They may experience physical aches and pains.  Often people who are depressed describe having a lack of energy or being slowed-down.

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What Causes Depression?

There are many possible explanations of what causes depression.  Sometimes the cause or trigger which starts of an episode of depression will be obvious.  For example, having a heart attack or heart surgery can be frightening and have an impact on your general functioning and quality of life.  People commonly feel more vulnerable and their perception of themselves as a healthy individual may be questioned.  Alternatively, depression does appear to run in some families.  Therefore, some people may be more likely than others to develop depression, often without an obvious reason.

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Treatments for Depression

Depression can be both emotionally distressing and disruptive to people's everyday life.  Furthermore, being depressed increases the likelihood of having a further heart attack.  Therefore, it is undoubtedly better to get treatment.  The main types of treatment are medication and psychological therapies.

Medication
Depression is most commonly treated by a course of anti-depressants.  There are lots of different anti-depressant medications.  These are not tranquillisers and they are not addictive.  They can be very useful in lightening a person's mood.  However, they do not work for everyone.  It may be necessary to try different types of anti-depressants to find one that is suitable. The benefit of medication is that you don't need to sit and talk with a therapist for a number of hours but the main disadvantage is that they can have a number of side-effects.  Feeling drowsy, a dry mouth, and constipation are some of the common ones.

Psychological Therapies
There are lots of different psychological treatment approaches.  The most effective for depression is cognitive therapy or cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).  This type of therapy considers how a person's behaviour and thinking style is affected by and contributes to low mood.  The treatment involves meeting with a therapist on a regular basis and determining goals which the patient works to achieve between sessions.

If you feel you are perhaps depressed it is important to seek help or advice.  Your doctor will be able to discuss the treatment options available and give you information about the benefits and disadvantages of these.

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