Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects one’s everyday life. In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. Certainly, it’s fairly common for someone to say “I feel depressed”. At this level, it doesn’t stop us from leading a normal life, but everything seems harder to do and less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make a person feel suicidal.

‘It starts as sadness then I feel myself shutting down. Eventually, I just feel numb and empty.’

When does low mood become depression?

We all have times when we feel low, and are sad or miserable about our life circumstances. Sometimes we can identify a specific cause (such as a breakup or a bereavement), and at other times it’s more difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Usually these feelings pass in due course.

But if these feelings are interfering with our lives and don’t go away after a couple of weeks, or they come back over and over again for a prolonged period, it could be a sign that we’re depressed.

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Feeling upset or tearful
  • Feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Feeling worthless, having low self confidence and self esteem
  • Feeling empty and numb
  • Being isolated and unable to relate to others
  • Finding no pleasure in life or things we usually enjoy
  • Feeling suicidal

Which could result in:

  • Avoiding social events and activities
  • Difficulty remembering or focusing on things
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired and having a lack of energy all the time
  • Smoking, drinking or doing more drugs than usual
  • Having no appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight
  • Self-harming or suicidal behaviour

Treatments for depression

There are many talking therapies for depression such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (‘CBT’) or psychodynamic psychotherapy. However it is important to note that the talking therapies as well as self-care (see below) routes may not work for everyone and some people may benefit from being put onto antidepressant medication, either on its own or in combination with a talking therapy. This is a decision that they should come to after discussing with their GP.

Moreover if you find yourself thinking about suicide and are worried you might act on these thoughts, it is very important to know that you should call an ambulance, go straight to A&E or call the Samaritans to talk for free on 116 123.