Are you ill? Recognizing depression

Prof. Dr. Verena Briner
Prof. Dr. Verena Briner
Body & Mind
Depression is one of the most dangerous and at the same time most underestimated diseases in the world. However, if it is detected in time, it is usually well treatable.

Depression is not a weakness of character and not a trifle for the mentally weak. Its frequent trivialisation is one of the reasons why the topic still has problems of acceptance in the public. A depression is not cured by some sport, encouraging words and a holiday, though. It is a serious illness requiring treatment, which not only affects the way people feel and think, but can also have serious physical effects.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines depression as a widespread mental disorder that can be characterized by sadness, lack of interest and loss of enjoyment, feelings of guilt and low self-esteem, sleep disorders, loss of appetite, fatigue and poor concentration. These and other symptoms can be recorded and diagnosed by a doctor. Current estimates assume that around 350 million people worldwide suffer from a depressive illness and that depression will be the second most common widespread disease by 2020. Patients who suffer from the disease need professional treatment and medical help in order to overcome the depressive times well and sustainably.


The first step: The insight

For the affected persons themselves, it is not easy to recognize whether there already lurks a serious illness behind a bad mood. Even if the symptoms are known, they are often reinterpreted or other explanations are sought. Plus there are some signs of depression that are little known. However, early detection significantly increases the chances of recovery, usually without the use of medication.

It is therefore important to deal with this topic seriously. It can help to talk to friends and other people you trust about your own thoughts and feelings. Often third parties have a different perception of one's own behaviour and can recognise warning signals more easily than the person affected.


15 Symptoms of depression

Annette Schlipphak, Vice President of the Professional Association of German Psychologists (BDP) names 15 key symptoms that indicate depression:

Psychological symptoms

  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Loss of drive
  • Joylessness
  • Low self-confidence
  • Bad concentration
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Feelings of guilt

Physical symptoms

  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations and tachycardia
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • „Weak knees“
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • High adrenaline level
  • Pressure on the chest and breathing difficulties
  • Possibly vision problems

If several of these symptoms occur together or even individually over a long period of time, caution is advised. Now it is important to seek professional advice. It is best to talk to your doctor as soon as you have a first suspicion. Your family doctor is sufficient for the beginning.

There are also various self-tests for diagnosing depression. The most important in the german-speaking area is probably the self-test of the German Depression Aid. These tests can be a first indication, but they are by no means a substitute for professional treatment.


Medical history and other options

However, there are also cases where depression is mistakenly thought to be depression because the symptoms seem to fit the pattern. But there exist other psychological and especially physical illnesses which have similar symptoms. Sleep disorders or loss of appetite, for example, can indicate very different diseases and might have nothing to do with depression.

All the more reason to talk to your doctor about your feelings and symptoms. In any case, the medical history should also be clarified and physical examinations should be carried out. A blood count, for example, can indicate malfunctions or an unhealthy lifestyle.


Prevention and treatment

Unfortunately, awareness of the nature of depression is not sufficient to counteract it. The disease is complex and deceitful and cannot be defeated or prevented by mere will. The best prevention is to confront the first signs and take preventive measures.

It is important to talk openly and honestly about your problems with people you trust from the very beginning. The work-life balance is also important. If stressful phases and mental stress are not sufficiently balanced by positive experiences and stress-reducing activities, there is a risk of falling into a hole.

To counteract this, sport is very effective, especially yoga and similar exercises. But also a healthy diet, sufficient sleep and generally everything that allows you relaxation and mental freedom is suitable. In addition, longer holidays or especially spa stays with special programmes for the treatment of mental illness usually have an extraordinarily good effect on health. Here at the Waldhotel, for example, we have developed programmes such as Mindfulness Pro especially for such cases.


Possible causes

There can be no one hundred percent protection against the disease, though. It is still not clearly researched how depression develops. The disease is as diverse as the people who suffer from it. However, It is no longer denied that many different factors play a role in the development of a depressive disorder. The interaction of several factors as well as physical and psychological factors is of great importance.

Common causes of depressive symptoms are long-lasting worries and stress, which no longer come in waves but become overwhelming. Often these are financial hardships, problems at work or especially social worries, such as a separation or even the death of a close person. Such traumatic experiences can sometimes trigger severe depression even years later. Disorders in childhood, such as divorce, rejection, pressure to perform and also domestic violence often lead to psychological problems only in adolescence or adulthood.

There is also a proven hereditary component. People whose parents suffered from psychological illness experience similar suffering more often than others in their lives. Also physical reasons should not go unmentioned. Serious illnesses such as cancer or incurable chronic diseases often trigger depressive phases in patients.

In any case, however, going to the doctor remains the most important instrument for preventing depression from developing in the first place. And don't worry: no doctor or therapist will take your request lightly. Depression is not a whim but a serious illness and there is no reason not to get help.


Our MINDFULNESS Programmes