Depression is a mental illness characterised by persistent emotional numbness or sadness, general listlessness and a loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy. These symptoms are accompanied by the inability to cope with the demands of day-to-day life.
If the described conditions persist for at least two weeks, it may be depression. Depression can affect anyone. It is not a sign of weakness – and it can be treated. If you suspect that you (or someone you are worried about) has depression, please do not wait for it to get better on its own. Take heart and get in touch with people who can diagnose and treat this or other psychological complaints.
- Loss of motivation
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in your sleep pattern – getting too much or too little sleep
- Feelings of anxiety
- Difficulty focusing on specific tasks
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness
- Thinking about harming or killing yourself
The most important thing is not to keep it to yourself, but to talk to someone about your feelings and not to be afraid to approach healthcare workers with your problem. Most people instantly feel better when they talk to someone who cares about them and their problems. It is important to understand that life can be good again once you get proper treatment. It is also important to continue engaging in activities that you enjoy or used to enjoy. If you have already stopped, make it a point to get back on track with these activities. Staying in touch with your friends is very helpful. In general, it is advisable to take regular walks – even short ones – and maintain regular eating and sleeping habits. Endurance sports are helpful in fighting depression.
It is also important to accept that you may be suffering from depression. This includes accommodating for the condition and adjusting your expectations of yourself and performance goals accordingly. Alcohol and drug use should also be avoided, as they can make depression worse.
Seek help immediately if you have recurrent thoughts about harming or killing yourself.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is the most effective treatment for depression. It aims to break the cycle of ruminating negative thoughts, which are considered a root cause of depression. During the therapy sessions, we will discuss these thoughts and check whether they hold up to closer scrutiny. These sessions focus on your current problems and how they can be overcome. You are also provided with ideas for self-help and guidance on how to cope with daily life. If you suspect you have depression, a good place to start is your GP ('Hausarzt' in German) or the Psychological Counselling Service. They will evaluate your condition and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist. Click on 'further information' for a list of healthcare providers who can help you with depression.
In addition to a talking therapy, psychiatrists or GPs ('Hausärzte') may prescribe a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants to treat moderate and severe forms of depression.
The internet also offers a number of online resources that can help treat a depressed mood or be used as a preparatory measure for behavioural therapy. The National Health Service of the United Kingdom offers an online depression self-test questionnaire. For those of you who speak German, Studicare and moodgym offer such online training tools and further support. If you have used an online training tool before your visit to the Psychological Counselling Service, please let us know during the consultation, as this can offer valuable insights.
English-language self-help group:DepressionUK promotes mutual support between individuals, affected by or at risk from depression. As an overseas member, you can sign up for and participate in the e-mail mailing list; however, the postal option (for £10 per year) is not available to overseas members.