Information about Depression
Having depression is different from the sadness that most of us experience as part of our “normal” range of emotion. Depression is an illness which means that intense feelings of persistent sadness, helplessness and hopelessness are accompanied by a number of other symptoms such as sleeplessness, a loss of energy or aches and pains. Depression can also affect an individual’s self-esteem and confidence, concentration, ability to enjoy things, and everyday functioning in general. Thoughts of harming yourself or wishing you were dead can often be a symptom associated with depression. Thoughts of this kind are quite common and do not mean that an individual will harm themselves. However, it is important to inform a GP or other health care worker about these thoughts as it may enable more appropriate management of the illness.
People may suffer symptoms of depression as part of an illness called bipolar disorder (manic depression). In this condition, people experience mood swings of both high mood and low mood, both of which may cause impairment in an individual’s everyday functioning.
Depression is thought to involve a change in the chemical balance of the brain often, but not always, triggered by stressful life events, for example bereavement, divorce, or redundancy. These are often combined with factors that may make an individual more prone to depression such as having a history of depression within their family, or experiencing traumatic events during childhood. Although some people are more predisposed to depression, it is an illness that can affect anyone. In some individuals depression can begin without any apparent trigger. It is one of the most common conditions in the UK, affecting approximately 1 in 5 people during their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.
Some individuals are prone to suffering from depression at particular times in their lives for example, some individuals experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) where their mood varies according to the time of year; some women may be particularly vulnerable to episodes of depression in relation to childbirth. Fortunately, the vast majority of people affected by depression will make a full recovery with the modern treatments available, although individual responses to different treatments vary. Successful treatment can involve a variety of different approaches, including self-help, psychotherapy (talking treatments) or medication.
Our research team, based jointly at Cardiff University and Birmingham University, is conducting research to examine more closely the factors which contribute to mood disorders. Although we are not currently involved in any research studies investigating major depression, we are conducting studies of bipolar disorder (where individuals experience episodes of high mood and, usually, episodes of depression).
There is also a study being conducted in the department of psychological medicine at Cardiff University that is looking at the relationship between major depression in parents and children. For more information please see their web page: Electronic Prevention of Depression (ePod)
Such research, aimed at improving our understanding of mood disorders, will facilitate future advances in the prevention and treatment of these debilitating illnesses.
The Mood Disorders Research Team, led by Professor Nick Craddock, produce an annual newsletter with the aim of providing updated information about our work to everyone who has so generously given up their time to participate in our studies, as well as to provide information for anyone else who may be interested in our work.