Feeling Depressed or Suicidal?

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Written by the Dental Fear Central Web Team
Last updated on January 17, 2021

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About 10% of people experience depression at any one time, often together with anxiety 1. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of age, location, or economic status.

The combination of dental fears and depression can feel overwhelming. You are not alone and you are not unusual! Both depression and dental phobia are very common. If your depression is mainly due to dental phobia, it may disappear once you’ve tackled the phobia. Also, 4 out of 5 people who experience depression recover without treatment within 2 years. Having said that, therapy or treatment is still a good idea – it can help you recover more quickly and prevent relapses.

Even if you don’t fully recover – many people very successfully live life with depression. And depression need not stop you from doing things that are fulfilling and meaningful. It can even be an opportunity for personal growth. Developing strategies to live with depression can be very empowering.

Depression or Unhappiness?

Occasionally, feelings of unhappiness are labelled as ‘depression’. If you feel down because you are unhappy with some aspects of your life, then trying to make changes may help. Sometimes, it can feel as if change is impossible. In that case, it can be really useful to enlist the help of a counselling psychologist, and together figure out whether there are things that you can change. Perhaps there is not much you can do about your situation because of circumstances outside your control. But circumstances can and do change and you may find a brighter future lying ahead.

Am I Depressed?

These are some of the signs that you may be depressed:

  • Being unable to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in things that used to excite you
  • Wanting to isolate from other people
  • Suddenly eating a lot more or a lot less
  • Overwhelming and lasting feelings of guilt, sorrow, worthlessness or self-loathing
  • Feeling tired or fatigued almost every day
  • Lasting feelings of hopelessness
  • Lasting thoughts of self-harm
  • Often thinking of death or suicide or suicide attempts
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions

Of course, some of these feelings are part of everyday life. And experiencing them does not necessarily mean that you are depressed. Rather, they can be a normal, short-term reaction to difficult circumstances.

I think I am depressed. Now what?

There are several steps you can take:

Self-Help

  • Tell friends or family about how you feel. Having someone who supports you can really ease the burden of depression.
Person confiding in a friend
  • The internet can also be a good place for social support (for example, the Mental Health Forum). Make sure that the internet community you choose makes you feel welcome and safe. And don’t forget to protect your identity by using a fake name.
  • Exercise can help with depression. It releases brain chemicals that improve our mood and make us feel happier. If it’s safe for you to do so, aim for half an hour’s exercise a day. Examples include fast walking, jogging, cycling, gym, swimming, or even dancing at home to music (use headphones if your neighbours might complain). You can find lots of tips in the booklet Up and Running – How Exercise can Help Beat Depression by the Mental Health Foundation.
  • Yoga and meditation can also be very relaxing. What’s more, you can do gentle forms of yoga even if you can’t do strenuous exercise for health reasons. There are many free Yoga videos on YouTube, or you can join a local beginners’ class.
  • Take part in activities which help others or which benefit the public. Being part of something bigger than yourself and feeling the impact that you can make in the world, can often help with depression or unhappiness. There may be volunteering opportunities in your area. Or you can try and find novel ways of making a difference yourself.

Professional Help

Contact your GP if you’re experiencing more severe signs of depression, such as

  • a complete loss of motivation,
  • wanting to end your life, or
  • symptoms that last for longer than expected.

Depression can be due to various physical causes. Examples include an underactive thyroid, low blood sugar, celiac disease, or sleep apnoea. If you don’t know why you feel depressed, your doctor can check if there is a medical reason.

Depending on your symptoms and what’s causing you to feel depressed, your doctor may suggest some form of talking therapy, antidepressant tablets, or both. Some people don’t like the idea of medication, some don’t like the idea of psychotherapy. So, there is obviously a degree of personal choice.

Talking Therapies

Talking therapies include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This can help deal with negative thoughts and behaviours.
  • Psychotherapy or counselling: Talking freely about your feelings to someone who is non-judgmental can be very helpful.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT is about identifying what is important to us and living our lives in line with our values. A central element of ACT is mindfulness. This is the practice of being fully aware of the present moment. In essence, it means taking notice of how your body feels, what you see, smell and taste. But it’s also about paying attention to our emotions and our thoughts without getting caught up in them or reacting to them.

If you are in the UK, you can go to your local Mind office. They may be able to provide support directly or at least steer you in the right direction.

Also, you may want to check out this link on finding the right therapist.

Where can I get more information about depression?

You may find some of these resources helpful:

I am thinking about harming myself or taking my life

Thoughts of suicide or imagining suicide don’t necessarily mean that you want to die.

Sometimes it’s just a question of considering all the options. We often weigh up a lot of different factors in making decisions. But that doesn’t mean that we would act upon some of them. For example, if we are in debt we would consider taking advice, buying a lottery ticket, running away, or facing up to the problem. Running away and buying a lottery ticket aren’t good options but we’d still probably think of them.

Although things seem bleak, there will be a way through. Hotlines are available all over the world with people who care and who want to talk to you. The people staffing the hotlines understand what you’re going through and they won’t judge you. Whether you feel like you just need someone to talk to or you are in danger of harming yourself, the hotlines and resources below can provide help and support.

Get urgent help

In the UK and Ireland

  • Call 999 if you are in an emergency and there is a risk to life (your own or another person’s)
  • Samaritans have a free helpline you can call. It’s open 24 hours, 365 days of the year. Call 116 123. They also offer email support at [email protected]
  • In England and Scotland, you can phone 111 for health concerns that are urgent but not a true emergency. In Wales, the phone number is 111 in some areas and 0845 46 47 in others. Check the NHS 111 Wales website for current information. These are 24-hour services.

In the U.S.

  • Call 911 or visit an emergency room if your life is in danger
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Look for “Crisis Prevention Centers” or “Suicide Prevention Centers” in the Yellow Pages

In Canada

  • Call 911 or visit an emergency room if your life is in danger
  • Suicide Prevention Crisis Centres across Canada – Click on a province for a listing of crisis centers in your area
  • Look for “Crisis Prevention Centers” or “Suicide Prevention Centers” in the Yellow Pages

In Australia

  • Call 000 or visit an emergency department if your life is in danger
  • Lifeline – Offers 24-hour telephone counselling. You can call Lifeline from most parts of the country for the cost of a local call on 131 114

In New Zealand

  • Call 111 or visit an emergency department if your life is in danger
  • Lifeline New Zealand – Offers free 24-hour telephone counselling on 0800 543 354

Elsewhere in the World

  • If your life is in danger, visit your local hospital or call emergency services
  • List of suicide crisis lines – Wikipedia has an extensive list of suicide crisis lines by country

Visit our forum for mutual support and advice around dental phobia, anxiety and fear!

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