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: 16 April, 2015
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  • blithe    (65 days ago)

    Hey will,
    Firstly, good on you for reaching out for help! That is a brave first step. I'm sorry that you didn't get help when you asked. :( But please keep trying, because everyone deserves to have someone listen and help.
    Just being here on ReachOut is a great place to start, you could head to the forums and have a look around and see if you'd like to post there and say hi and share what's going on for you. Visit:
    Otherwise I'd recommend calling Kids Helpline (if you're 25 or under) on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. Good luck, will!

  • will    (66 days ago)

    what happens when you have asked everyone for help, and not received any?

  • Shona    (339 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

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