The word ‘depression’ is used in many different ways. Everyone can feel sad or down from time to time, but most people manage to cope and can recover without professional help. However, everyday ‘blues’ or sadness is not depression.
In this section the depression referred to is ‘clinical depression’. A person with clinical depression will feel depressed for longer periods of time (at least two weeks) and this will disrupt things in their life such as relationships or the ability to carry out their work. Clinical depression is a common but serious illness. People can recover, but depression may occur at another time in their life, often in response to stressful events or situations.
Although there are several different types of depression, there are a number of common symptoms. It is important to know that not every person who has depression will have all of these symptoms or the same severity of symptoms.
A person with clinical depression will have at least two of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:
- an unusually sad mood that does not go away;
- loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable;
- tiredness and lack of energy.
In addition, the person can have other symptoms, such as:
- loss of confidence in themselves or poor self-esteem;
- feeling guilty when they are not really at fault;
- thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide;
- difficulty making decisions and concentrating;
- moving more slowly or becoming agitated and unable to settle;
- having difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much;
- unusual weight loss, or for some people unusual weight gain.
What causes depression?
There are many different factors which can contribute to the risk of someone becoming depressed, and the more factors that are present the greater the risk of depression. For example:
- a person is at greater risk of developing depression if a parent or close relative has a history of depression, alcohol problems or anxiety;
- circumstances such as a stressful job, financial worries, relationship problems, or a lack of supportive family or friends;
- experience of abuse, neglect or bullying, especially during childhood;
- illness or disability;
- people with certain personality traits (perfectionists, those who like to be in control all the time, or those with a tendency to blame themselves);
- pregnancy or childbirth.
The more risk factors a person has, the greater their vulnerability to depression. However, it is important to remember that sometimes, depression just happens and there may be no obvious reason.
If you are concerned about depression speak to your GP or other health professional.
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