The word ‘depression’ gets thrown around a lot, but there’s more to this condition than many people realise. Get some information on what symptoms and signs to look out for and what you can do about them.
This can help if:
- you’ve been feeling down
- you’re wondering what the signs of depression are
- you’re worried about a friend’s low mood.
What is depression?
People often use the word ‘depressed’ when they're talking about moments or periods of time when they’re feeling sad or down. It’s normal to feel down when you’re going through a stressful or difficult time, or the general ups and downs of life. However, if you feel low on more days than not for a few weeks, or if you really aren’t sure why you feel so bad, there might be something more serious going on.
‘Depression’, which is often diagnosed as 'major depressive disorder' or ‘clinical depression’, refers to significant feelings of sadness or a low mood that last longer than two weeks and start to get in the way of your everyday life. Depression is a condition that can only be diagnosed by a health professional.
What causes depression?
There is no single cause of depression. It likely develops due to a combination of factors, including life events (such as experiencing violence or losing someone close to you) and biological factors (genetics or hormones).
People affected by depression often experience negative thinking patterns and may stop doing their regular activities, which can make their symptoms worse. In other words, depression becomes a bit of a cycle: your mood is so down, you don’t feel like doing anything, so you stop doing the things you enjoy or that you need to do (such as schoolwork or daily tasks), which makes you feel even worse.
What are some signs and symptoms of depression?
Everyone who experiences depression will have a different array of signs and symptoms, but there are some common ones, which can range from mild to severe. Many people don’t realise that depression doesn’t just affect someone’s mood – it also affects their body. Some of the signs and symptoms of someone experiencing depression, you can see. Others, however, are invisible to everyone else.
Most people experience some of these feelings and behaviours occasionally. The difference with depression is that the symptoms are more severe, happen more often, and don't go away over time.
What to do if you think you’re experiencing depression
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, visit your GP or a mental health professional. The good news is, if you’re diagnosed with depression, there are treatments available. Your doctors can work with you to create a treatment plan that suits your personal circumstances and experience. This could include things like:
- psychological treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy
- lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, eating well and implementing sleeping routines
- medication (usually anti-depressants).
Have a look at our fact sheets on treatments for depression and self-care strategies for more information on what you can do to manage depression. Keep in mind that everyone responds to treatments differently, so finding the right treatment and the right mental health professional could take time. Keep trying until you find something that works for you.