Depression is often pictured as a person confined to their bed, finding little energy or interest in the world around them.
However, this stereotypical image can be misleading. Depression comes in various forms and intensities, and not all who suffer from it exhibit such obvious signs. One such variant is 'Walking Depression'.
As a counsellor, my aim in writing this blog is to create awareness about this lesser-known form of depression. In the following sections, we'll dive deep into understanding what walking depression is, its symptoms, impact on mental health, and various treatment options. This blog is intended to be a source of valuable information for anyone trying to understand this condition, whether for themselves or their loved ones.
What is Walking Depression?
Walking depression, also known as high-functioning depression or dysthymia, is a form of depression where individuals can carry on with their daily responsibilities and activities despite experiencing depressive symptoms. Because these individuals can maintain a facade of normality, their depressive symptoms are often overlooked or mistaken for everyday stress or fatigue.
Recognising the Symptoms
Walking depression can be harder to identify than major depressive disorder because those affected are often able to function at a seemingly normal level. This functioning, however, usually comes at an immense personal cost, with individuals often describing life as a 'march' or 'trudge', thus the term 'walking' depression. Symptoms can vary from person to person, but some common ones include:
- Chronic sadness or 'feeling down'
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Feeling constantly tired or lacking energy
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Persistent feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Social withdrawal
A key characteristic is the sense of 'just going through the motions'. Individuals with walking depression may feel like they're living on autopilot, doing what needs to be done but deriving little joy or satisfaction from life.
The Impact on Mental Health
The ability to function does not diminish the suffering caused by walking depression. If anything, it can make the condition more insidious, as individuals often discount their own pain because they are 'getting on with it'. They might feel guilty for feeling low when they can still manage their work and social obligations, which in turn can exacerbate feelings of worthlessness.
Just as with other forms of depression, walking depression can have serious consequences for mental health if left unaddressed. Over time, it can lead to physical health problems, substance misuse, and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
Walking depression, like all forms of depression, is treatable, and the first step towards recovery is recognising the problem. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of walking depression, it's important to seek professional help.
Therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) have proven effective in treating walking depression. These therapies can help individuals understand and manage their symptoms, develop healthier thinking patterns, and improve their coping mechanisms and interpersonal relationships.
In some cases, a healthcare provider may recommend medication, such as antidepressants. These can help manage the symptoms of walking depression, but they should be taken under medical supervision due to potential side effects.
Certain lifestyle changes can also help manage walking depression. Regular physical exercise, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and reducing alcohol and caffeine can all contribute to improved mental health. Mindfulness techniques and stress management strategies can also be beneficial.
Self-care is crucial for mental health. This involves setting aside time for activities that bring joy and relaxation, spending time in nature, practising relaxation techniques, and maintaining a regular self-care routine. It also involves learning to set boundaries and say 'no' to avoid overloading oneself with responsibilities.
Having a strong support system can play a crucial role in managing walking depression. This could include friends, family, support groups, or mental health professionals. It's important to have people who understand what you're going through and offer emotional support.
Walking depression is a serious condition that, despite its name, is anything but a leisurely stroll. It's an uphill climb where every step can feel like a Herculean task. But with understanding, care, and appropriate treatment, individuals suffering from this condition can find relief and regain their zest for life.
It's essential not to self-diagnose, but rather, if you recognise any of these symptoms within yourself or someone you know, seek professional help. Mental health matters and is just as important as physical health. Remember, it's okay not to be okay, and it's okay to ask for help. As a society, the more we understand and talk openly about conditions like walking depression, the closer we get to removing the stigma attached to mental health issues. Let's walk that path together.
Discover a Path Towards Better Mental Health
Navigating life's ups and downs can often feel overwhelming, leading to stress, anxiety, or even feelings of despair. If you're feeling weighed down by emotional turmoil or struggling to find a sense of balance, we're here to help. Our counselling services offer a safe, compassionate, and confidential environment where you can express your feelings freely, explore your concerns, and begin the journey towards healing and personal growth. We believe that everyone has the capacity for change and that therapy can unlock the door to a more fulfilling, happier life.
Unlock Your Potential with Professional Counselling
Our professional counselling services are designed to equip you with the tools and strategies necessary to effectively handle life's challenges. Whether you're grappling with stress, anxiety, depression, or simply seeking a better understanding of yourself and your relationships, we can provide tailored support to meet your unique needs. Using evidence-based approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, we can help you challenge unhelpful cognitive biases and develop healthier ways of thinking.