Life is full of ups and downs, and our moods are no different. It’s normal to feel blue from time to time, but a persistent low mood that affects your day to day life is not something that should be brushed aside.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health (and, in fact, can affect that too), so if you are suffering from persistent feelings of sadness, reach out. In Ireland, an estimated 300,000 people suffer from a mental illness, with depression being the most common diagnosis. You are not alone, and you shouldn’t suffer in silence.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder categorised by feelings of intense sadness, loss of interest in everyday activities, feelings of guilt and, sometimes, sleep disturbances. Depression can last anywhere from a few weeks to months.

While people with a family history are more at risk of developing depression, it is important to remember that it can strike any person at any time. Luckily, depression is very treatable, and there are lots of things that can be done to help improve your mood.

See Mental Health Ireland for more information on clinical depression.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Symptoms of depression can be grouped into three categories: psychological, physical and social. If you identify as having a lot of the symptoms below reach out to your GP or CarePlus Pharmacist.

Psychological symptoms

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Low self-esteem
  • Crying and tearfulness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • Loss of motivation and little interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
  • Feeling anxious or worried

If you feel suicidal and have plans to harm yourself, please reconsider. Call 999 or 112 or go to your local A&E as soon as you can.

Social symptoms

  • Finding work difficult, struggling with tasks that were once easy
  • Avoiding friends and social gatherings
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Difficulties at home, arguing or irritable with family members 

Physical symptoms

  • Speaking or moving slowly
  • Loss of appetite or weight (though sometimes people can gain weight or find their appetite is increased)
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Lack of energy, feeling fatigued constantly
  • Loss of libido
  • Disturbed sleep patterns; struggling to fall asleep, waking very early, oversleeping

Who is at risk of developing depression?

Depression can strike anyone at any time, but there are some factors which can cause people to develop depression. These include:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Chronic illness, such as heart disease, back pain, cancer
  • Life changing events such as bereavement or job loss

It’s important to remember that depression can strike because of chemical imbalances in the brain (the chemicals most involved in depression are thought to be Serotonin and Noradrenaline), and you should not dismiss a persistent low mood just because you think that you “don’t have a reason to be depressed”. 

Depression is an illness like any other; you wouldn’t look for a “reason” to treat a broken leg, so don’t treat your mood any differently!

How is depression treated?

If you have clinical depression, your GP may prescribe you medication to help your mood. The most common types of medication used for treating depression are antidepressant tablets, of which there are many different types. The most common antidepressants prescribed in Ireland are:

  • SSRIs Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
  • SNRIs Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors
  • NASSAs Noradrenaline and Specific Serotoninergic Antidepressants
  • MAOIs Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • Tricyclics

It’s important to take any medication that your doctor prescribes as directed and to never abruptly stop taking your tablets.

Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication and if you have any queries about side effects or reactions, don’t hesitate to call your CarePlus Pharmacist or GP.

Other ways to help alleviate depression include:

  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs – alcohol is a depressant, so drinking while you are depressed, will only further exacerbate your symptoms. Likewise, recreational drugs can significantly affect a person’s mood and should be avoided entirely
  • Exercise – there is evidence to suggest that exercise can help alleviate mood. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain, and these neurotransmitters produce feelings of happiness. Bonus points if you get out into nature and exercise outdoors
  • Join a Support Group – it’s good to talk, and there are lots of groups where you can find an empathetic ear for your worries. Groups like Aware ( run support groups all over Ireland, where you can meet with people in a similar situation

If you have any concerns about your mental health, you can call into any CarePlus Pharmacy and have a chat with our pharmacists in the privacy of our consultation room.