What is 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

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 fact sheets 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. We know it can be hard to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you, or jump on our community forums to learn more about depression and ways to cope.

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.
  • Get personalised support options for when you're feeling low with ReachOut NextStep.
  • Talk to your GP about cognitive behavioural therapy.


Last reviewed: 03 June, 2016
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  • Ben-RO    (80 days ago)

    Hey @Big Macc the best thing you can do is have a chat to someone 1 on 1 who can help you to decide what to do next and how work through those thoughts of ending your life. KHL are awesome and you can chat to them over the web or by giving them a call. Find out more here: https://kidshelpline.com.au/If you'd like to talk to us a bit more, please make a post here : http://forums.au.reachout.com/We're here for you!

  • Big Macc    (83 days ago)

    If I have these thoughts of killing myself at school what should I do because it happens to me everyday.

  • Ben-RO    (101 days ago)

    @killmenowplease i am sorry to hear that you are feeling like hurting yourself a lot and i am even more sorry to hear that your family and school don't get it. I would really love to talk a bit more about how to help you get some support that actually feels like it helps you. Can you make a new post here? http://forums.au.reachout.com/t5/Getting-Help/bd-p/Getting_Help

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