The supposed ‘common cold’ of emotional problems, although this is rather facetious in my view. Depression is often misunderstood as being laziness and weakness, but it is anything but. Most people with depression are those who soldier on valiantly no matter how tough things get; indeed, it is this ‘never say die’ attitude which can result in conscientious people running themselves into the ground physically and mentally. But depression cannot always be so easily explained; sometimes it’s harder to work out ‘why’ you feel the way you feel. Typically, depressed people feel sad and withdraw socially. They may experience changes in sleep and eating (either more or less than usual) and a lack of interest in things they used to enjoy. Exhaustion, emotional ‘numbness’ and a sense of hopelessness are commonly-reported. Many will find themselves easily upset or tearful and a profound sense of guilt or worthlessness is not unusual. Many people also experience a loss of sex drive or lapses in memory and concentration. Others find themselves ruminating – spending lots of time worrying about the things they’re not doing, such as looking after the house or the kids, or achieving their goals at work. Unsurprisingly, such thinking is not very helpful in combating depression. Sometimes, but not always, people feel suicidal or self-harm. Often, people cope with the way they’re feeling by drinking too much.
Depression can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. It affects about 10% of Britons a year. Sometimes it can resolve itself; sometimes input from professionals is required. Some people will relapse; some will not. Unfortunately there’s no way to tell who will and who will not, but what we do know is that therapy can help. We also know that good social support is incredibly important in recovery. Put simply, if life feels awful and you feel worthless and unlovable, having other people around to take care of you can make a world of difference.
Similar to depression as described above, but specifically occurring after the birth of a child. Fathers can be affected as well as mothers. In some ways, feeling low, tired and being easily upset after childbirth is hardly surprising; you’ve suddenly got a new life entirely dependent on you, you’ve got hormones all over the place and you will be undergoing huge changes in lifestyle. It can be enormously stressful and it’s important to realise that some of this may well be entirely normal. But if it doesn’t resolve itself, it’s important that you get help because we also know that PND can seriously affect the relationship between the parent and child. Again, social support is crucial – having other people around to take care of the baby, as well as you. Midwives and health visitors are trained to spot the signs and are usually very good at signposting you to the right people. There’s no shame in saying you feel low following childbirth – it’s not an easy admission to make, but it’s probably better than suffering in silence.