What is Depression?
Physical symptoms include:
Social symptoms include:
It can take some time to recognise that you may be depressed. Depression may come on gradually and some people continue to deal with the symptoms without recognising them. It can take a friend or family member to suggest that something is wrong.
Who gets depression?
Depression is quite common and about one in ten people will experience depression at some point. However, the exact number of people with depression is hard to estimate because many people do not get help or are not formally diagnosed with the condition.
Women are more likely to have depression than men, and 1 in 4 women will require treatment for depression at some point, compared to 1 in 10 men. Men are far more likely than women to commit suicide, which may be because men are less likely to seek help for depression. Alternatively, it may be due to other factors including substance misuse, unemployment and social isolation.
Depression can affect people of any age, including children. Studies have shown that about 4% of children aged 5-16 in the UK are affected by depression.
People with a family history of depression are more likely to experience depression themselves. Depression affects people in many ways and can cause a wide variety of physical, psychological (mental) and social symptoms.
A few people still think that depression is not a real illness and that it is a form of weakness or admission of failure. However this is not true, Depression is a real illness with real effects, and it is certainly not a sign of failure.
What causes depression?
Depression has a number of possible causes. For some people, it comes about as a result of a traumatic life event such as bereavement, relationship breakdown, financial difficulties or bullying. For others, the person may have an inherited tendency towards depression, and genetic factors such as these can be key in the case of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder involves not just periods of depression, but also periods of elation (‘highs’), where the person's mood is significantly higher than normal. During these periods, he/she may have excessive energy with little need for sleep, may have grandiose ideas and may engage in risk-taking behaviour. For more, see causes of depression.
What should I do if I think depression is a factor for me or a loved one?
The most important thing to do is speak to a doctor in order to get a correct diagnosis. There are a number of treatments for depression, depending on the cause and severity of symptoms and a professional is best placed to decide which, if any, treatment is most appropriate. Accessing reliable information is also vital. Talking through concerns with someone who understands can also be a help.