Depression can affect anyone, of every neurotype, at any time in their lives. It is more common in women than men (by 50%), more common in the over 60s and more common in people with physical and learning disabilities. According to the World Health Organisation, 5% of the world’s population, that’s 280 million people are experiencing an episode of depression at any one time. Neurodivergent people are particularly susceptible to depression which, all things considered, is not in the slightest bit surprising. In fact, I’m surprised that Autistica’s claim that half of all autistic adults have suffered from depression is as low as that.

Here are some of the symptoms of depression:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Sleeplessness and over-active mind at night
  • Loss of appetite or binge eating
  • Lethargy during the day
  • Suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts) or fantasising about dying
  • Reduced sociability
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pointlessness
  • Feeling numb inside
  • Mood swings
  • No longer finding enjoyment in our favourite activities
  • Unexpected bouts of crying
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Struggling to focus on a task
  • Self-harming
  • Feelings of guilt and of being more trouble than we’re worth
  • Feeling unloved or misunderstood

Treating depression:

  • Contacting the GP is the first step, or at least talking to someone you trust.
  • Reach out to organisations who can listen to you, such as the Samaritans – telephone 116 123 – any time of day or night. It’s a myth that you have to be suicidal to call them. They are there for everyone, however trivial you worry that your feelings are. I know this for a fact, because I have had support from them many times in my life.
  • The GP can prescribe medication, if you wish to try it. You may have to try a few different drugs before you find the one that suits you. Medication can feel like you’re being weak seeking help, but you’re being strong in recognising you need help.
  • Talking therapies are so important – either alongside or instead of medication. Here is a link to → Mind’s page on talking therapies.
  • D.O.S.E. = dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins. These are the four ‘feel good’ hormones. If we can increase our supply of these, we’re on the right track for fighting depression, as well as fighting pain.
    • Often, the very last thing we feel like doing is exercising when we’re depressed. If we can drag ourselves out of the door, or even just run up and down the stairs a few times, or dance around the room to our favourite music – exercise is the most natural of all mood enhancers. It releases endorphins and dopamine – and these both make us feel good.
    • Modifying what we eat and drink is also incredibly effective at improving mood. Less caffeine, less alcohol, less sugar, and more of the healthy stuff! There are a number of foods that increase our dopamine levels in much healthier ways than naughty food, recreational drugs, impulse buys etc.
    • Getting enough sunlight – particularly difficult from autumn to spring in the UK and other countries that have marked seasonal differences in light levels. Sunlight increases our serotonin levels and serotonin is used in many anti-depressant medications. Using light therapy is another way of increasing our sunlight exposure. Sunlight also increases our endorphin levels.
    • Meditation – if you have the patience for it! This too releases endorphins.
    • Laughter is the best medicine, they say – that’s because it releases endorphins. Hard to achieve when we’re feeling depressed, I know.
    • Sex releases endorphins and oxytocin. Again, hard to feel in the mood when we’re depressed, but worth knowing anyway.
    • Acupuncture also releases endorphins.
    • Oxytocin, known as the ‘love hormone’ is released during sex, when hugging, nursing a baby, singing in a group, after certain contact sports and during a massage.

You will find all of this information, and more, on the Harvard Medical School website.

Remember, if you feel that you are at risk, call 999. You will not be wasting their time.