What is depression?

Most people, children as well as adults, feel low or “blue” occasionally. Feeling sad is a normal reaction to experiences that are stressful or upsetting. When these feelings go on and on, and take over your usual self and your whole life, it may have become depression.


How common is it?

Depression often starts in the teenage years. It can affect anybody.


How do I know if I have depression?

If you are depressed you may:

  • be moody and irritable - easily upset, “radgy”, or tearful
  • become withdrawn; avoid friends, family and regular activities
  • feel guilty or bad; be self-critical and self-blaming, hate yourself
  • feel unhappy, miserable and lonely a lot of the time
  • feel hopeless and want to die
  • find it difficult to concentrate
  • not look after your appearance, or feel bad about your appearance
  • experience changes in sleep pattern; sleeping too little or too much
  • feel tired a lot of the time
  • lose interest in eating, or eat too much
  • suffer aches or pains such as headaches or stomach aches

If you have all or most of the above and have had them over a long period of time, it may mean that you are depressed. You may find it very difficult to talk about how you are feeling.


What causes depression?

Depression is usually caused by a mixture of things rather than any one thing alone.

This may include;

  • experiences like family breakdown, the death or loss of someone you love, bullying, physical illness, abuse or neglect
  • lots of changes happening too quickly
  • lots of stress that it is difficult to cope with
  • having no one to share your worries with

Depression may run in families and is more common if you are suffering from physical illness or have a disability.

Depression seems to be linked with chemical changes in the part of the brain that controls mood.


What can I do if I am feeling low?

Some of the things that may help;

  • talking to someone you trust can help to lighten the burden and can make it easier to work out practical solutions to problems
  • doing some physical activity and eating healthily
  • keeping occupied by doing activities, even when you don’t really feel like it
  • not staying all alone in your room during the day
  • allowing time for fun and leisure
  • avoid using drugs and alcohol as a way of coping


How is depression treated?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy, which is effective for treating depression. This can be done face-to-face, online or in a group. Other talking therapies can be helpful. These include family therapy and interpersonal therapy (IPT).

If your depression is severe and has been going on a long time, you may find it difficult to even talk about it. In this situation antidepressant medication may help to lift your mood and make talking therapies easier to do.


Remember you’re not alone. Depression is a common problem and can be overcome.


Leaflet reference: L741
Version: V2
Date last updated: 02 / 2017
Archive date: 02 / 2020

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