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Ruth asked...

I have been feeling really low.

I have been feeling really low for a long time now. I have had several bouts of illness which have gone unexplained, leading me to believe they must be psychological. I have been thinking about going to my doctor to discuss the possibility of whether I have depression. I am finding it hard to leave the house, I keep rescheduling meetings with friends because I can't face them. But I wonder if I am over-reacting as I am still functioning - I still get up and go to work. My question really is, is this depression? Or do I just need to snap out of it? I have tried exercising more, and I generally lead a healthy life style. I am just feeling very lost I guess.

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The answer

It certainly sounds as if you have depression, and it saddens me that you, like so many other people, believe that anybody can ‘just snap out of’ depression. Depression is every bit as much of a ‘proper’ medical condition as angina or a broken leg – it just happens to affect your brain and there isn’t a blood test or scan to confirm it. However, there are several questionnaires which have been developed to help pick up depression. You sound as if you tick many of the boxes. The ‘screening’ questions are: In the last 2 weeks, have you been troubled by feeling down, depressed or hopeless or having little interest or pleasure in doing things? If the answer to either of these is ‘yes’ on at least half of days, doctors ask about a series of other symptoms including: trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much, feeling tired or having little energy, problems falling asleep or sleeping too much, change in appetite, feeling bad about yourself (that you are a failure or have let others down), problems concentrating, thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way.

Do go and see your GP. There is lots of help available for depression, and talking therapy like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can make a huge difference. Anti-depressants can help in moderate to severe cases, but personally I always talk to my patients about combining this with talking therapy for the best outcomes.

 

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