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What we treat

Depression

If low mood means you're struggling to function from day to day, you may have depression and it would be a good idea to find help.

Depression – also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression – is a mood disorder that causes an ongoing feeling of sadness and your interest in things to fade.


Symptoms of depression

Depression affects how you think, feel, and behave and can lead to a range of emotional and physical issues – from feeling low or hopeless to changes in appetite or sleeping patterns. Depending on how severe your symptoms are you may find doing normal day-to-day activities difficult, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living. You might stop doing the activities that you once enjoyed, or you might withdraw from friends and family. This can in turn increase feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Depression and anxiety are often linked, and many people with depression will also have symptoms of anxiety. Depression isn’t a bout of the blues and you can't just snap out of it. It can require long-term treatment. But don't be discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, therapy or both.

Physical
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble with sleeping – not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Restlessness
  • Unexplained aches, pains, headaches or cramps
  • Digestive problems
  • Low sex drive
  • Changes to your menstrual cycle
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
Mental
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Having a sense of looming danger, panic or doom
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts
  • Feeling like you can’t stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying
  • Worrying about anxiety itself (worrying that you’re worrying too much)
Emotional
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt – fixating on past failures or self-blaming
  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Feeling like you’re losing touch with reality
  • Feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax 
  • Feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
Social
  • Being unable to enjoy leisure time, such as time off work, holidays, hanging out with friends, hobbies or sex 
  • Being bad-tempered
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Avoiding everyday situations that trigger anxiety

Different types of depression

There are many different types of depression, including:


  • Prenatal and postnatal depression – depression can arise during pregnancy and also in the weeks and months after becoming a parent. It’s most common in women, but men can be diagnosed with it too.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - SAD is a depression that typically – but not always – occurs in the winter.

Causes of depression

Depression has no clear single cause. Sometimes an episode of depression can be triggered by a difficult life-changing event, but it can also be caused by a build-up of smaller stresses. Some episodes of depression may not have an obvious trigger at all and you may struggle to understand why exactly you’re feeling this way.

Common triggers include:
  • Redundancy
  • Bereavement
  • Divorce
  • Financial worries
  • Chronic pain & long-term conditions such as diabetes or COPD
  • Problems at work
  • Physical health problems
  • Chronic health problems
  • Life-threatening diseases
  • Homelessness or housing problems
  • Genetic inheritance
  • Changes in your body's balance of hormones, such as those caused by menopause, pregnancy or delivery (postpartum) 
  • Changes in brain chemistry 
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • A traumatic relationship
  • Being LGBTQ+, or having variations in the development of genital organs that aren't clearly male or female (intersex) in an unsupportive situation
  • Abuse of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Certain medications, such as some high blood pressure medications or sleeping pills (talk to your doctor before stopping any medication)

How to look after yourself when living with depression

The best treatment plan for dealing with depression will depend on the severity of your depression and the length of time you’ve been suffering from the symptoms.

Some lifestyle changes that can help you cope with mild depression include:

  • Keeping physically active, if you can
  • Connecting with people around you 
  • Continuing to do activities that usually make you happy
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • Simplifying your life: cutting back on obligations when possible, and setting reasonable goals for yourself
  • Writing in a journal - this can improve mood by allowing you to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions
  • Seeking treatment. The type you need will depend on the severity of your symptoms, as well as on your personal preference
  • Depression is generally treated using a combination of a talking therapy – CBT, for example – and medication. Other treatments include self-help materials and peer-support programmes
  • Try breathing exercises. These are a helpful way of managing the anxiety and worries that often come with depression. They can help you cope and boost your ability to feel more in control. They may also help with some of the physical symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension

How to support a loved one experiencing depression

It can be difficult to know how best to help a friend or family member who is experiencing episodes of depression. Here are some things to consider:

Be open

Many people with depression find it hard to talk about how they are feeling for fear of being judged, or that their experiences will be dismissed by those who don’t understand. Reassure your loved one that it’s good to talk and perfectly okay to ask for help if they’re struggling. Being open about your own feelings and emotions can help put them at ease and encourage them to share their experiences with you.

Give them space

On the other hand, it can be tempting to try and do everything for someone that is struggling with depression or to always ask how they are feeling. While this comes from a good place, it isn’t always the most helpful for someone experiencing a depressive episode. Generally, it’s good to encourage them to keep doing things for themselves and not allow their depression to define them as a person. Even though they’re going through a difficult experience they’re still your friend or family member and will appreciate you treating them the same as you normally would.

Check in

Someone experiencing depression may withdraw from activities that they once enjoyed or possibly isolate themselves from groups of friends or family members. If you notice someone doing this in a way that seems out of character, check in with them. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture, just a message to check in and let them know that you’re there for them can be enough to improve their mood.

Start the process


If you would like to find out about other mental health support options available in your area, visit the NHS website.

In a health emergency
Call Samaritans on 116 123 if you need to talk to someone
Call 111 if you’re experiencing a mental health crisis
Call 999 or go to A&E if your life is at immediate risk
Call 116 123 If you need to talk to someone
Call 111 if you are experiencing a mental health crisis
Call 999 or go to a&e if your life is at immediate risk