Depression: Symptoms, Information, Causes and Treatment


Overview: Depression is a serious illness which can have a profound impact on the day-to-day life of someone who suffers from the illness. While most people will go through periods of feeling down or unhappy, those who are depressed feel persistently sad or have a low mood for weeks, and in some cases – months. Depression can make life seem pointless, and often leads to suicidal ideation. Depression is a very common mental health problem – and is generally classed as either mild, moderate or severe. Clinical Depression (also known as Major Depressive Disorder or Unipolar Depression) is the most common, though sub-types of depression e.g. melancholic depression exist. The good news is that with the right treatment and support, many people will make a full recovery. This page focuses on clinical depression. It is worth consulting a specialist website for more specific types of depression.


Depression can cause many issues for those who suffer from it


Symptoms: The symptoms of depression can range from person-to-person, though there are some general symptoms that tend to be common. Symptoms can be both psychological and physical. The general rule is that someone who is depressed feels hopeless, sad, and loses interest in activities that were once enjoyable. These symptoms should last for the majority of a three-week period before someone can be diagnosed with depression.


Psychological: Continuous low mood, sadness, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, low self-esteem, lack of emotion, irritability, concentration difficulties, not enjoying life or activities, feeling numb, AnxietyRumination, suicidal thoughts and self-harming.


Physical: Lack of energy, loss of libido, losing or gaining appetite and weight, insomnia or excessive sleep, physical aches.


On occasion, people with depression can endure episodes of severe depression, which can often include elements of Psychosis.


Causes: There is no single cause of depression, with often a range of factors contributing to the illness developing. Traumatic or highly-stressful experiences can also lead to depression developing. Many people report depression being brought on by a chain of events that lead to a ‘downward spiral’. Other causes include a history of depression in your family, loneliness, alcohol abuse, illnesses like cancer, childhood experiences (e.g. abuse or neglect) and lifestyle. Depression can also be a side-effect of some drugs and medications.



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Diagnosis: If you believe you are suffering from depression, it is recommended that you seek help from your GP. You are particularly encouraged to seek help if you are having suicidal thoughts. A GP will ascertain your feelings and health by asking you several questions – you are encouraged to answer the questions honestly. This can help lead to a thorough diagnosis. Furthermore, the Patient Health Questionnaire, commonly referred to as the PHQ test, is the general test for depression. It features several questions which someone answers, with their results often determining the level of depression they are suffering from. Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment can proceed.


Treatment: Depression is a serious illness, though it can be solved when the correct treatments are offered. The level of treatment depends on how severe your depression is.


Mild Depression: You will often be encouraged to be more active for a few weeks and engage in some self-help materials. If this doesn’t work, therapy can be a useful starting point for treatment. Therapy is normally some form of Psychotherapy, most commonly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).


Moderate Depression: When depression is a bit more serious and has more of a profound impact on your life, it is referred to as moderate. Psychotherapy will be offered, with again CBT being the most common. Some medications can also be offered. It is recommended that any medication that is taken is done so in conjunction with therapy. Antidepressants are generally the medications that are offered. There are five different classes of antidepressants that can be prescribed, with the SSRI class the most common. Other classes are SNRIs, Tricyclic antidepressants, MAOIs and Atypical antidepressants. SSRI and SNRI antidepressants are the most frequently prescribed medications.


Severe Depression: Severe depression relates to those whose depression is having a marked impact on their day-to-day life. Antidepressants are usually offered, with therapy as well. Occasionally, you will be referred to a specialist from a Community Mental Health team. In very select cases, individuals suffering from severe depression could be sectioned. As a last resort prior to sectioning, electro-convulsive therapy can be used.


Eighteen of the most common antidepressants have profiles that you can access in each antidepressant’s class page.


Living With Depression: Depression can have a considerable effect on an individual. Those with depression can find it difficult to function on a daily basis, especially in social situations. It is highly recommended that those suffering from depression seek help. Engaging in treatment is very important – especially taking medication correctly and timely. Alcohol is generally best to be avoided.


Extras: The NHS offers a self-assessment for Depression on their website, which should give you an idea on your symptoms. However, this doesn’t replace a professional diagnosis. You can access the self-assessment by clicking here. Otherwise, return to the Get Going section below!