Author: Dental Fear Central
Written by the Dental Fear Central Web Team
Last updated on June 24, 2020

Feeling Depressed or Suicidal?

If you need immediate help and support, click here.

About 10% of the population experience depression at any one time, most commonly together with anxiety 1. Depression affects everyone from top CEOs and rock stars to blue collar workers and students. Depression isn’t limited by age, location, or economic status – it can affect anyone.

For people with a dental phobia, 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 due mainly to dental phobia, you may find it disappears once you have tackled the phobia. Also, 4 out of 5 people who experience depression recover without treatment within 2 years (though therapy or treatment can help prevent relapses and make it last shorter).

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 also be an opportunity for personal growth. Accepting it and developing strategies to live with it are important and can be very empowering.

Depression or Unhappiness?

In today’s society, sometimes feelings of unhappiness may be labeled as a medical condition, under the umbrella term of ‘depression’. If you feel down because you are unhappy with your life, then trying to make changes to the things you are unhappy with may help. Sometimes, it feels as if change is impossible. It can be really useful to enlist the help of a counselling psychologist if this is the case, and together figure out whether there are things that you can change that would make you happier. Sometimes there is not much you can change 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?

The following 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 or repeatedly 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. They can be a normal, temporary reaction to difficult circumstances.

I think I am depressed. Now what?

There are several steps you can take:

Self-Help

  • Confiding in friends or significant others about how you feel is a great first step. Having someone who supports you can ease the burden of depression tremendously.
  • People talking

  • If you do not have anyone you can confide in, the internet can also be a good place to get social support (for example, the Mental Health Forum). Make sure that the internet community or communities you choose make you feel welcome and safe, and protect your identity by using a fake name.
  • Exercise has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of depression. If possible and if it’s safe for you to do so (from a health perspective), aim for half an hour’s exercise a day (e.g. fast walking, jogging, cycling, gym, swimming, or anything you might enjoy). A beginners’ yoga class can be very relaxing and can also be done if you are unable to do more vigorous sports. You can find more information in the booklet Up and Running – How Exercise can Help Beat Depression by the Mental Health Foundation.
  • Engaging in activities which help others or which benefit the public can be a huge help, too, and is often overlooked. Being part of something bigger than¬† yourself, while still feeling the impact that you can make personally in the world, can greatly help with alleviating some forms of depression or unhappiness. There may be various 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 are experiencing severe signs of depression, such as a complete loss of motivation or wanting to end your life, or if symptoms are lasting for longer than expected. Depression can be due to various physical causes, for example an underactive thyroid, low blood sugar, celiac disease, or sleep apnoea. If you don’t know what is causing you to feel depressed, your doctor can check if there is a medical reason.

Depending on your symptoms and the circumstances (external causes or sad feelings that come “out of the blue”), 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 you deal with negative thoughts and behaviours which are often a feature of depression.
  • Psychotherapy/Counselling: Talking freely about your feelings to someone who is non-judgmental can be very helpful.
  • Mindfulness/Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT emphasizes identifying what is important to us and living our lives in accordance with our values. A central component of ACT is mindfulness, which is also used in Yoga and some forms of meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of simply being aware of thoughts and emotions, rather than getting caught up in them or analysing their meaning. Read more about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy here.

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

You may also want to check out this link on finding the right therapist.

Where can I find more information about depression?

You may find some of the following 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, 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 and are staffed with people who want to talk to you – people who care. The people staffing the hotlines understand what you are going through and they will not 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 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 any concerns that you have about your health 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
    • Befrienders Worldwide – An affiliate of the Samaritans. Provides resources and hotlines around the world

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