Born in Oxfordshire, the 60-year-old performer has been highly educated at Eton College and the University of Cambridge. Married for over 30 years and the father to three children, chums with Stephen Fry, and having experienced stupendous success in his career, Hugh is proof that a dark depression can fall on just about anybody.
“It affected everything – my family and friends,” he told the Evening Standard. “I was a pain in the arse to have around. I was miserable and self-absorbed.
“It’s actually selfish to be depressed and not try and do anything about it.”
Is it depression or am I feeling sad?
Mental Health UK states depression is a “long-lasting” low mood disorder that consists of feeling sad, irritable or angry.
Remembering back to his realisation he was living under a dark cloud, Hugh recalled: “I was doing this stock-car race for charity somewhere in the East End. But in the middle of the race, with cars exploding and turning over – life or death – it suddenly hit me that I was bored.
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“I thought, ‘This can’t be right. I should either be hating it with every fibre of my being or loving it, because this is an extreme experience.’ I realised this was the state of mind of a depressed person.”
The mental health charity continues that depression shows up by losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, and it would seem by Hugh’s comment that this is exactly what had happened to him.
“I diagnosed myself as being depressed and decided I would try and sort it out.
“I don’t know enough about the illness to say whether it was clinical, but it was certainly more than feeling a bit sad.”
Depression can be clinically categorised into mild, moderate or severe – depending on how much it affects someone’s day-to-day life.
“It went on for long periods of time,” Hugh added. “I had all the other symptoms, like lethargy and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning.”
Other symptoms of depression, as listed by Mental Health UK, include:
- Feeling bad about yourself, guilty or worthless
- Low energy, feeling less able to do things
- Physical aches and pains with no obvious cause
- Avoiding social events
- Losing interest in sex
- Loss of concentration, finding it difficult to make decisions
- Sleeping less or more, feeling tired all the time
- Eating less or more
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Although less common, people with moderate or severe depression can also develop:
- Delusions, such as paranoia
- Hallucinations, such as hearing voices
“A friend recommended a fantastic lady therapist,” continued the TV star. “I found it incredibly helpful.”
“The truth is a bit scary, but I think everyone should have a go,” he added. “I feel very much more at peace.”
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Going on to defend his decision to seek help, he said: “I know a lot of people think therapy is about sitting around staring at your own navel – but it’s staring at your own navel with a goal.
“And the goal is to one day to see the world in a better way and treat your loved ones with more kindness and have more to give.”
Therapies are available on the NHS – although availability may be limited and so can impact waiting times for group sessions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
Please be aware that a doctor may offer medication to treat the symptoms of depression.
Alternative methods to help lift depression include exercising, a healthy diet and a support network.
You can catch Hugh as Captain Ryan Clark on the weekly futuristic comedy series Avenue 5, Wednesdays on Sky One at 10pm.
Hugh Laurie will also be appearing on the BBC One Graham Norton show, Friday 24th January at 10:35pm, alongside a star-studded guestlist featuring Robert Downey Jr, Emma Thompson and Terry Gilliam.
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