Depression Overview

NHS

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.

Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They're wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression is not a sign of weakness or something you can "snap out of" by "pulling yourself together".

The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.

How to tell if you have depression

Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.

They range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety.

There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains.

The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while severe depression can make you feel suicidal, that life is no longer worth living.

Most people experience feelings of stress, anxiety or low mood during difficult times. A low mood may improve after a short period of time, rather than being a sign of depression.

When to see a doctor

It's important to seek help from a GP if you think you may be depressed.

Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression, but it's best not to delay. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can be on the way to recovery.

What causes depression?

Sometimes there's a trigger for depression. Life-changing events, such as bereavement, losing your job or giving birth, can bring it on.

People with a family history of depression are more likely to experience it themselves. But you can also become depressed for no obvious reason.

Treating depression

Treatment for depression can involve a combination of lifestyle changes, talking therapies and medicine. Your recommended treatment will be based on whether you have mild, moderate or severe depression.

If you have mild depression, your doctor may suggest waiting to see whether it improves on its own, while monitoring your progress. This is known as "watchful waiting". They may also suggest lifestyle measures such as exercise and self-help groups.

Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), are often used for mild depression that is not improving, or moderate depression. Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed.

For moderate to severe depression, a combination of talking therapy and antidepressants is often recommended. If you have severe depression, you may be referred to a specialist mental health team for intensive specialist talking treatments and prescribed medicine.

Living with depression

Many people with depression benefit by making lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise, cutting down on alcohol, giving up smoking and eating healthily.

Reading a self-help book or joining a support group are also worthwhile. They can help you gain a better understanding about what causes you to feel depressed. Sharing your experiences with others in a similar situation can also be very supportive.

Useful resources

The directory of services provides information on organisations that can help improve mental health and emotional wellbeing or support people who need help with mental and emotional ill health.
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Back to Life, Back to Normality is a free 12-week mental health programme delivered by...
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AMH New Life Counselling is a professionally accredited counselling service and part of...
The British Red Cross is helping people connect with their local communities, meet new...
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AMH EveryBODY aims to promote greater understanding and awareness of eating disorders. We...
Our Calm Club Anxiety Relief Sessions allow you to benefit from an approach that provides...
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The Community Care and Support Service is open to individuals over the age of 18 years...
The AWARE Mood Matters in the Workplace programme is a mental health awareness programme...
Free access to eBooks, audiobooks and eMagazines - available to download on your device...
A partnership, led by AMH, who worked with 8 leading charities to improve mental health...
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Be Mindful is an online course that uses mindfulness techniques like meditation,...
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Our team of facilitators have extensive knowledge and experience in the field of Mental...
Advanced Diploma in Mental Health and Wellbeing Coaching This virtual training programme...
Positive Minds for Premature Parents supports families of premature babies to develop and...
Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for the treatment and alleviation of a variety of...
We’ve gathered useful advice, information and help for young people aged 8-25 and those...
AMH Promote provides opportunities for adults with a learning disability to be socially...
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This idea is a walk in the park. It really is that simple, post a news item to see how...
We have a wealth of experience in delivering training and consultancy services to a wide...
Anxiety UK’s online support groups offer a safe space for people to share experiences,...
AWARE NI are expanding their self-help supports to include a new online support group...
This is a six-session programme using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) concepts – the...
At AMH New Horizons we support the recovery of adults experiencing mental ill health who...
Supporting veterans at risk of suicide across Northern Ireland. Exposure to line of duty...
A project for men aged 50+ to share skills, socialise and connect with their wider...
Counselling sessions can often last for longer than the standard 12 sessions offered with...
From books and magazines to local history resources, Libraries NI has a host of fabulous...
The OUR Generation project is a Peace IV funded project that provides a unique...
Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) offers a range of self-help methods to help you...
It’s an easy to follow programme known the world over, and perfect for those new to...
Learn to manage negative thoughts and look at problems differently
Moodpath: Depression and Anxiety is a written mood journal that uses progress reports and...
Personalised Exercise Plans
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Handle stress and anxiety on the go
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Guided meditations
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SuperBetter is a tool created by game designers to help you build resilience and get...
Fabulous! Is a motivational app that uses challenges to help build physically and...
What's Up? can help you cope with anxiety, stress and feelings of depression. It has...
Guided meditations
Clear Fear is an app developed for teenage mental health charity Stem4 which uses the...
Support to resist self-harm
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Check your mood