Depression doesn’t take away your talents – it just makes them harder to find.

Lady Gaga

Understanding depression

Depression is a mental health condition that causes people to feel sad or unable to enjoy things for weeks or even months. It can also be associated with having low energy or motivation, feeling irritable, a change in appetite and trouble sleeping. In severe cases, people may even think about death or suicide.


Benefits of treatment

Depression can cause significant difficulty in someone’s ability to function in their day-to-day life. It occurs very commonly and may be short-term or come and go in a person’s life. With the right treatment, people with depression can recover to live a normal, fulfilling life.

Types of depression

Major depression

This type of depression occurs when the symptoms of depression persist for at least 2 weeks at a time and cause significant difficulties in a person’s day-to-day life. This is the most common type of depression affecting adults and can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

This type of depression is like major depression but occurs when the symptoms of depression have been happening intermittently over at least two years (or one year in children and adolescents).

Atypical depression

This is similar to major depression but is accompanied by other symptoms that may include increased appetite and weight, sleeping excessively and suffering from fatigue. People with this condition may also experience extreme sensitivity to rejection.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

This type of depression occurs when extreme feelings of sadness, irritability, or moodiness happen just before a women’s monthly period and cease after the period starts.

Prenatal and postnatal depression

This type of depression occurs during pregnancy or soon after having a baby. It can also be called perinatal or peripartum depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

This is when the symptoms of depression are related to the seasons, such that people experience symptoms of depression during the autumn and winter months and feel better during spring and summer. The symptoms tend to be mild and may include oversleeping, difficulty getting out of bed, fatigue, increased appetite, and weight gain.

Where depression is not linked to Bipolar Disorder, it is sometimes called 'unipolar depression’.

What causes depression?

There is no one known cause for depression, but it is understood that several factors can influence whether someone develops depression. Some examples of these include:

  • Genes, as depression does tend to run in families.
  • Traumatic events.
  • Loss and grief.
  • Loneliness.
  • Health issues.
  • Using alcohol, drugs, or smoking.
  • Sleeping problems.
  • Low physical activity levels.
  • Not eating well.
  • Some medications.

Not everyone who feels down and stressed has depression; however, these feelings can lead someone to develop depression.


What is it like to have depression?

People with depression may have any of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling down or sad.
  • Not being able to enjoy things that are usually enjoyable.
  • Feeling irritable.
  • Increase or decrease in appetite.
  • Changes in weight.
  • Low energy or fatigue.
  • Reduced motivation to do things.
  • Trouble sleeping or oversleeping.
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or bad about yourself.
  • Thinking about death or suicide.
  • Having trouble thinking clearly or concentrating.
  • Physical movement that is slowed down or sped up.

Sometimes depression can have unusual symptoms, although rare, such as hearing or seeing things that aren’t real (hallucinations), having strange beliefs that are not true or abnormal (delusions), and extreme weakness or inability to move parts of the body.


Who gets depression?

Depression is very common and can affect anyone. More than 1 in 5 people, on average, will experience depression at some point in their lives. Most people first develop depression when they are over 20 years old; however, children and teenagers can also have depression. Women are approximately twice as likely as men to develop depression. People with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, can also have depression.

Diagnosis of depression

Diagnosis is based on an assessment of your symptoms, usually by a GP or psychologist. A referral to a psychiatrist may occur when symptoms are severe, unusual, or require further assessment and management.

A medical check-up and other tests may be needed to see whether symptoms could be caused or worsened by another medical condition. The diagnosis can sometimes be made right away but may sometimes require a period of further monitoring before a diagnosis can be made.

Treatment and management of depression

Conventional treatments for depression

The treatment that is right for you will depend on several factors, including the symptoms you are experiencing, your life situation and personal preference. Conventional treatments for depression include medication and psychological interventions and usually depend on whether your depression is mild, moderate or severe.

  • Mild depression – is typically treated with psychological treatments. Medication is usually not required.
  • Moderate depression – can be treated with medication and psychological treatments.
  • Severe depression – most people with severe depression will need medication and psychological treatments. Severe depression may, at times, require Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), which is considered a safe and effective treatment.

Psychological treatments that work in depression include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), interpersonal psychotherapy, problem-solving therapy, and short-term psychodynamic therapy.

Complementary treatments for depression

In addition to conventional treatments for depression, such as medication and psychological interventions, a personalised integrative approach may include optimising the mind and body through diet, exercise, sleep and social activities. It may also include nutritional supplementation, nutraceuticals, supportive therapies and spirituality.

Recovery from depression

Depression is a treatable condition. With treatment, most people will recover within 3-6 months. Sometimes it can take longer to recover, such as may be the case with severe depression. Receiving medical care as early as possible is important in your recovery. The sooner you get help, the better your chance of getting the correct diagnosis and starting effective treatment.