When someone is suffering with depression they have a very bleak view of their life. At the time of their depression, they usually hold a low opinion of themselves, their circumstances and the world in general. They feel hopeless about the future and they cannot see how their life will ever get better. They often feel trapped and unable to escape their depression.

Depression is extremely common, affecting around 121 million people worldwide. Many people will experience short-lived symptoms and make a spontaneous recovery. For others the depressive episode may persist for six months or longer.

Possible causes

Depression can occur for several reasons. It is sometimes triggered by loss of some kind, whether through the death of a loved one, a relationship breakdown, losing one’s job, having missed out on an important career opportunity or the failure to achieve an important personal goal. Other major life events can also cause a depressive episode, such as retirement, moving house, childbirth, menopause, the diagnosis of disease or disability, etc. Very often depression can also be the result from exposure to multiple minor stresses rather than a single life event.

Primary symptoms of depression

When a person is depressed they typically experience a range of key symptoms including :

  • Low mood, feeling sad, empty
  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in weight and appetite
  • Changes to sleep patterns
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling anxious, guilty, angry
  • Feeling lonely, even when amongst people
  • Indecisive
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), which may lead to thoughts of suicide.

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, and especially if you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, then you are likely to be depressed.

Self-help is not always enough when depression is severe, especially if you are having thoughts of self-harm. If this is the case, it is important to visit your GP.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is recommended by the Department of Health and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the treatment of choice for depression.

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