Am I just stressed – or do I have depression?
This is a question I often hear from new clients.
Having a diagnosis for our distress can be helpful for some people, however for others it can stop them seeking support due to the stigma of mental health that exists in our society.
The Difference between Stress and Depression – does it matter?
Labels aside, it is important that people recognise when they might be struggling and feel able to seek support without shame.
There is no single cause of depression and people’s experience of it can vary widely. However, people often report feeling sad, hopeless, and losing interest in things which impairs their capacity to function across different areas of their life.
The onset of depression can often be associated with an understandable reaction to difficult life events. The degree to which the depression intensifies is best viewed on a continuum. The point at which to seek professional help is different for each person.
- mild depression – has some impact on your daily life and you are experiencing a few of the symptoms below;
- moderate depression – has a significant impact on at least two areas of your life and you are experiencing several of the symptoms below;
- severe depression – makes it almost impossible to get through daily life and you are experiencing many of the symptoms below.
Symptoms of Depression
Commonly reported symptoms include:
- moving or speaking more slowly than usual;
- changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased);
- unexplained aches and pains;
- lack of energy;
- low sex drive;
- changes to your menstrual cycle;
- disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning.
- struggling to do well at work;
- avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities;
- neglecting your hobbies and interests;
- having difficulties in your home and family life.
- continuous low mood or sadness;
- feeling hopeless and helpless;
- feeling anxious or worried;
- having no motivation or interest in things;
- having low self-esteem;
- feeling tearful;
- feeling guilt-ridden;
- feeling irritable and intolerant of others;
- finding it difficult to make decisions;
- struggling to get enjoyment out of life;
- having suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of harming yourself.
People from all walks of life experience depression however our environment (eg where you live, where you work, our family, friends etc) can have an impact on how it presents itself.
Our social environment might have certain pressures that dictate what is valued and expected of us at any given time. This can be influenced by a range of factors including (but not limited to): Geography; Gender; Race; Religion; Age; Class; Culture; Ethnicity; and Sexuality.
For example a man in a demanding job with limited social support, might experience depression differently from a woman who is adjusting to motherhood and leaving the workplace. Both could have some of the same symptoms listed above, but would benefit from treatment that also takes into account their own individual circumstances.
Treating Stress and Depression
The treatment offered in talking therapy will vary depending on the nature of your symptoms and their severity. It may include practical coping strategies and techniques, honest discussions about difficult experiences and your feelings, or both. You and your therapist can decide together what would be most helpful for you.
Author: Dr Anna Woodall, B Psych (Hons), D Psych (Clinical), MAPS.
Dr Anna Woodall has a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of East London, and over 10 years of experience delivering psychological support and mental health research in Australia and the United Kingdom.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Dr Anna Woodall, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.