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

These five directories list the names, numbers and web addresses (where applicable) of...
The EA currently have 162 staff on our Mental Health First Aider network. The Mental...
Inspire Workplaces (one of the new names for Carecall and EAP Consultants), is a leading...
Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), developed by Professor Paul Gilbert OBE, is a...
Sourcing and supporting employment opportunities, training and/or voluntary placements...
Action Mental Health is one of the ChatPal Project Team Members working to develop and...
This is aimed at the over 55’s and is delivered to groups in community settings. The...
There are a number of health campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness of...
This is delivered to the general adult population, including those affected by depression...
First aid as we know it is the help given to an injured person before medical treatment...
Well mind is a workshop which focuses on recognising the triggers of stress and the...
Our support groups offer a safe space for people aged 18+ to share experiences of anxiety...
AMH New Life Counselling provides high quality counselling services and is part of Action...
AMH Promote provides opportunities for adults with a learning disability to be socially...
This is delivered to expectant mothers & parents of babies under 3 years of age. It...
This includes: Raising awareness of depression and Aware NI services at a wide range of...
AMH EveryBODY aims to promote greater understanding and awareness of eating disorders. We...
Back to Life, Back to Normality is a free 12-week mental health programme delivered by...
Beyond Bricks is Lego® Based Play that uses a 'recovery to discovery' approach to enhance...
Tailored activities to support positive mental health and emotional wellbeing. MensSana,...
Belfast Resource Centre offers many opportunities including social and leisure activities...
Anxiety can affect anyone at any time, however, students often experience additional...
It is estimated that the overall prevalence of mental health conditions in Northern...
Free access to eBooks, audiobooks and eMagazines - available to download on your device...
Supporting veterans at risk of suicide across Northern Ireland. Exposure to line of duty...
MindWise is delighted to offer employers an opportunity to train their staff as Mental...
Since 2010 Action Mental Health has been successfully delivering Chronic Pain/Conditions...
Libraries NI can provide a free Homecall service to your home if you have significant...
Link & Learns are bite size, topical learning sessions for your employees, delivered...
CBT involves examining your thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns, and working out...
Be Mindful is an online course that uses mindfulness techniques like meditation,...
The OUR Generation project is a Peace IV funded project that provides a unique...
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...
Mindfulness is a form of meditation with its roots in Buddhism. It helps you develop...
Everyone’s mental health and emotional well-being is important and many different issues...
Clinical hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for the treatment and alleviation of a...
We’ve gathered useful advice, information and help for young people aged 8-25 and those...
AMH Works provide specialised mental wellbeing training and consultancy to tackle...
Mood Matters Young People programme is aimed at 14-18 year olds and gives them knowledge...
This programme is a six week training programme for groups of adults and focuses on...
This idea is a walk in the park. It really is that simple, post a news item to see how...
Positive Minds for Premature Parents supports families of premature babies to develop and...
This supportive behaviour change programme motivates individuals who are ready to make...
AWARE also offers an online support group service. The groups provide an opportunity to...
The British Red Cross is helping people connect with their local communities, meet new...
MindWise are proud to be the only membership-led mental health organisation in Northern...
This is a six-session programme using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) concepts – the...
AMH New Horizons provides a comprehensive programme of specialist training in: Personal...
We have a wealth of experience in delivering training and consultancy services to a wide...
WiseTalking is a pilot Talking Therapies service for children and young people who are...
A project for men aged 50+ to share skills, socialise and connect with their wider...
The Community Care and Support Service is open to individuals over the age of 18 years...
Our Talking Therapies Practice offers individuals a range of psychological interventions...
Helping employees become more resilient, by giving them the skills to reframe negative...
Counselling is a form of talking therapy that allows you to speak openly about your...
From books and magazines to local history resources, Libraries NI has a host of fabulous...
A partnership, led by AMH, who worked with 8 leading charities to improve mental health...
Bloom is a UK-wide programme which supports young people’s mental health resilience,...
You must download the Libby app to continue to access the eMagazine and eNewspaper...
Stress doesn’t just make you feel bad – it can also be bad for your health. The good news...
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
MoodMission helps you learn new and better ways of coping with low moods and anxiety...
Handle stress and anxiety on the go
MindShift CBT is a free self-help anxiety relief app, that helps you reduce worry, stress...
Guided meditations
Here2Help has been developed by a local initiative from people who want to make the range...
Active 10 is a free and easy to use walking app that tracks your walking and shows you...
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
Boost your happiness and create a kinder world while doing it with the Action for...
Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) offers a range of self-help methods to help you...
Your Mind Plan offers practical ideas and advice to help you boost and maintain your mental wellbeing. Answer the quick 5-question quiz and the Every Mind Matters widget will give you 5 tailored actions to help you feel more in control, improve your sleep, deal with stress and anxiety, and boost your mood – as well as the option to easily swap any actions and to save the whole plan via email.

Helplines & Web Chats

Samaritans
Action Mental Health
Association for Post-Natal Illness Helpline
Aware NI - Support Groups
Aware NI - Online Support Groups
Mind - Side by Side Online Community