Depression

The word ‘depression’ gets thrown around a lot, but there’s actually a lot more to it than many people realise. Get some info on depression, including the signs and symptoms to look out for and what you can do about it.

Signs this might be a problem…

  • you’ve been feeling sad or crap for a while
  • you’re under a lot of stress
  • you don’t have any energy
  • you feel worthless
guy with developing moustache

What is depression?

People often use the word depression when they're talking about moments or periods of time where they feel sad or down. When life gets full on and deals you things like stress, disappointments or grief, it's really common and normal to feel down about it. However, if you continue to feel lower than usual for a really long time, or if you're not really sure why you're feeling that way in the first place, there might be something more serious going on. 

The official use of the word depression, which is often diagnosed as 'major depressive disorder', is used if these feelings persist for longer than two weeks and start to get in the way of your everyday life. Keep in mind that depression is a condition that can only be diagnosed by a health professional.

Depression ranges from mild to severe, and while there are many possible causes, it's hard to know if it happens as the result of life events (such as traumatic events or losing someone close to you), biological factors (like an imbalance in certain chemicals in the brain), both, or something else entirely. Everyone who suffers from depression will experience it differently, but there are some common signs and symptoms.

Signs and symptoms

If you have depression, some of the possible effects on your mental health could be that you:

  • experience a lower than average mood for longer than two weeks
  • lose interest in activities that you used to really love
  • don’t get as much pleasure out of things
  • can’t concentrate
  • have a negative image of yourself
  • feel like you don’t have any energy
  • have feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • have thoughts of self-harm or suicide or thoughts of death 
  • have feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • have trouble with your memory. 
Many people don’t realise that depression doesn’t just affect someone’s mind and mood – it also affects their body. Some of the physical signs of depression may be that you:

  • sleep or feel sleepy all the time, or you can’t fall asleep and wake up at normal hours 
  • eat much more or much less than you usually would and experience weight loss or gain as a result
  • get headaches
  • have a sore or uncomfortable stomach.
Most people experience some of these feelings and behaviours at different times. The difference with depression is that the symptoms are more severe, happen more often, and they don't go away over time. 

What to do about it

The symptoms of depression can sometimes go away if the stress that caused them is fixed or removed, but this isn’t always the case. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s worth visiting your GP or a mental health professional to get a check-up. The good news is, if you are diagnosed with depression, it’s able to be treated. Your doctors can work with you to create a treatment plan which suits your personal circumstances and experience. This could include things like:
Have a look at our factsheets on treatments for depression, as well as self-care strategies for more info on what you can do to manage depression. Keep in mind that everyone responds to treatments differently, and so finding the right treatment will be much easier if you have professional support.

What can I do now?

  • Don’t use alcohol and drugs as a way of coping
  • Getting out and being active helps to lift your mood
  • Talk to your GP about cognitive behavioural therapy

 

Last reviewed: 01 May, 2014
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4 Comments

  • Shona    (76 days ago)

    Hi Puffin,

    Thanks for your comment! It's true that there's a bit of uncertainty surrounding the exact cause of depression, and it was our intention to reflect this idea in the content of this factsheet. Without being able to establish any concrete cause of depression, we wanted to mention some of the different theories that have been put forward in order to provide some understanding of the conversations that are taking place, and of the background to the different forms of treatment that have been developed.

    We work with a range of mental health experts to create all of our clinical content to make sure the info we publish reflects best-practice guidelines and evidence. This factsheet has been developed in consultation with a psychologist and is reviewed on an annual basis.

    We've got a range of content on the treatment of depression and if you have a look you'll see that we're not at all encouraging medication as the go-to, stand alone form of treatment, but as a form of treatment that should (if at all) be used in combination with self-help strategies and as part of a broader treatment plan developed together with a mental health professional.

    All that said, we really appreciate your feedback. We’ll be sure to take your comment into account when it's time for the next review!


    From the crew at ReachOut.com

  • Puffin    (78 days ago)

    I wonder whether it is helpful to publicise the idea of "imbalance in certain chemicals of the brain" on your website, as far as I know that there is no evidence to support the chemical imbalance theory. I wonder therefore, perpetuating the myth might lead to medication use as a first line of treatment that might lead to deterioration of mental health rather than assisting with coping strategies and enhancing health.

  • Jordo-RO    (240 days ago)

    Hi Shaneo,

    You bring up a great point about increasing awareness of men’s mental health and wellbeing. I think it is something that the mental health sector can continue working on. Campaigns like Soften the Fck Up and beyond blue’s Man Therapy are doing a good job of increasing awareness of mental health issues that men face and also encouraging more men to seek help. However, a lot of stigma surrounds men and mental health issues and it’s understandable to feel frustrated.

    Here at ReachOut.com we understand that mental illnesses affect everyone and that everyone’s experience is different. We use images based on how well they reflect the feelings and emotions that a fact sheet or story is trying to convey and we use a diversity of faces in those images.

    We’re particularly keen to make sure that guys have the space to discuss these issues, get some help and promote good mental health practices. Have you checked out the Man Cave on the forums? It’s one of the many inclusive spaces we’ve created on ReachOut.com. You might like to view some of the discussions there, or even start your own. You can access the Man Cave here: http://forums.au.reachout.com/t5/Man-Cave/bd-p/mancave

  • shaneo    (240 days ago)

    I see from your pictures that only women suffer from mental and other illnesses I hope to see some more awareness for men's health I cant believe I even have to say this, society should be fucking ashamed.............................. .