A low mood is completely normal. It affects us all at times, and that makes it difficult to pin point where ‘normal’ stops and a significant depression begins.
As a general guide, depression is a low mood that is persistent and doesn’t improve after a few days. It can affect many aspects of life, so you won’t just feel fed up with your partner, but your hobbies, job and even friends. Depression can also interfere with your daily life; you might not want to get out of bed or feel like doing your usual jobs around the house.
It’s thought that one in four people over 60 have depression and the older you get the higher your risk. Doctors don’t fully understand what causes depression and many things are thought to contribute, from your genes to traumatic life events such as bereavement, the end of a relationship or the loss of a job. Some medical conditions may also lead to depression, including an underactive thyroid gland, a stroke, head injury, heart attack or cancer. Hormones can influence mood, which is why many women struggle with mood changes during the menopause.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but you may feel sad or hopeless, or become disinterested in the things you usually enjoy. Many people struggle with symptoms of anxiety too. Some people feel tired, struggle to sleep and lose their appetite or sex drive. You may feel more pain, have digestive problems and struggle to focus on tasks.
It’s very important to see your doctor if you feel depressed or have a persistently low mood. There are many things they can do to help you understand why you might be feeling like this and what you can do about it. Don’t put up with it. In severe depression, treatments fall into two main groups – antidepressant drugs and talking treatments, such as counselling or some form of therapy.
Your GP can help you decide what you might feel is best for you. If you decide to try anti-depressants, bear in mind that it can be take several weeks before they start working.
If you’re worried that you might be developing depression or you have mild symptoms, you could try these five simple steps to help boost your wellbeing. Connect with other people by spending time with friends and family. Be active and get regular exercise to boost your mood. Keep learning by taking up a new hobby to boost your confidence and sense of achievement.
Give back by volunteering or helping others can lift your spirits. And be mindful – focus on the here and now rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
Q. My friend is in her 50s and hardly eats a thing. She’s terribly thin – what could be wrong?
Dr Trisha says: First don’t rule out that this might just be the way she is. She may be naturally thin and generally not that interested in food. But there are a number of disorders that could be making her thin.
Overactive thyroid gland, chronic lung disease, inflammatory bowel diseases and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and drug and alcohol abuse, can all affect weight and appetite. She could also have an eating disorder. Many people with anorexia never truly conquer their condition and may battle with food for the rest of their life. So try to be supportive without being judgmental.