What is Depression?

depression and anxietyDepression is much more than the occasional bout of sadness. Depression can be a devastating illness that affects your body, mood, thoughts, behaviour, and energy levels. It can impact your everyday life, making it difficult to complete daily tasks and preventing you from functioning fully. Some days it may be a struggle for you to get out of bed, while others may be more manageable, and you might be able to function well and complete some of your usual daily tasks.

Living with depression can be challenging for those around you. Potentially this can cause relationship problems making your depressive symptoms worse.

Symptoms of Depression

Physical symptoms
  • tiredness and lethargy
  • loss of appetite or overeating
  • changes in appetite and weight
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • changes in sleep pattern (unable to sleep or sleeping too much, early waking)
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • loss or low libido
  • moving or speaking more slowly than usual
  • anhedonia (lack of enjoyment)
  • sadness
  • feelings of guilt
  • hopelessness
  • irritable or intolerant of self and  others
  • suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • apathy
  • tearfulness
  • lack of motivation
  • low self-esteem
  • paranoia 
  • ideas that you are disliked
  • cancelling plans made with friends
  • avoiding contact with friends
  • neglecting hobbies or interests
  • isolating
  • inability to ask others for help
  • slow or muddled thinking
  • executive function issues (decision-making, concentrating, etc.)
  • difficulty explaining how you feel to others
  • forgetfulness
  • missing parts of a conversation
  • reduced attention
  • misplacing items
  • forgetting things you have just heard
  • inhibition control
  • difficult planning 

Types of Depression

There are different types of depression, such as

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD)

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Antenatal depression

Postnatal depression

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Psychotic Depression

Causes of Depression

Genetic inheritance

Research has shown that you are more likely to develop depression if a close family member (such as a parent or sibling) has depression. 

Life Events

Depression can be triggered by a life event such as:

  • bereavement
  • getting married
  • losing or changing  jobs
  • relationship break up
  • moving house
  • sexual or physical assault
  • experiencing bullying, including racism


Life-threatening illness,  chronic physical health conditions, particularly ones that significantly affect your lifestyle (such as chronic pain), can significantly impact your mood. Other physical health conditions that can be a cause of depression are:

  • Sleep problems
  • hormonal problems (especially parathyroid  and thyroid)
  • conditions affecting the nervous system.

Childhood Experience

You could be more vulnerable to experiencing depression if you have had difficulties during childhood. These could be:

  • dysfunctional family system
  • neglect
  • bereavement
  • abuse such as sexual, physical, and emotional
  • neglect
  • traumatic events
  • going through these difficulties can have an impact on how you deal with events going through life and how you manage your emotions, leading you to depression later in life.


Lack of sleep can considerably impact your mood, making it difficult to cope with life’s ups and downs, and low mood can impact the quality of sleep you get. It is a tough cycle. Poor diet and lack of exercise can also affect your mood, and although these do not directly cause depression, they may make you more vulnerable to developing it. 


Although drinking alcohol tends to make you feel relaxed at the time, it can cause depression. Alcohol is a depressant and will affect your levels of happy chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. It can also cause anxiety, particularly the following day (hanxiety).


Depression can be a side effect of many medications. It is always a good idea to check the list of side effects on the leaflet provided with the medicine.

Recreational Drugs

Depression is common among people battling addiction to drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse can trigger or intensify feelings of loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness often associated with depression.

Treatment for Depression


It is thought that antidepressants increase the activity of particular mood-enhancing brain chemicals such as noradrenaline and serotonin or make the activity last longer. Noradrenaline and serotonin are neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood and emotions.

Antidepressants are usually given to those that are suffering from moderate to severe depression and are sometimes given in conjunction with therapy such as Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

It is worth noting that while antidepressants are used to treat depression, they do not address the cause, hence why medication is used with other types of therapy, such as CBT.

Some antidepressants are also used to treat pain, such as nerve pain.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

These are the most widely prescribed antidepressants as they are thought to cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants. Types of SSRIs are: 

  • fluoxetine (Prozac), 
  • sertraline (Lustral), 
  • escitalopram (Cipralex) 
  • citalopram (Cipramil)

Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Types of SNIRs are: 

  • duloxetine (Cymbalta, Irenka)
  • venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)


Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NASSAs)

The main NASSA prescribed in the UK is mirtazapine (Zispin).

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

These include:

  • dosulepin
  • amitriptyline
  • clomipramine
  • nortriptyline
  • lofepramine


These are no longer recommended as the first treatment for depression. They are an older type of antidepressant and cause more unpleasant side effects than other medications.



Talking to a counsellor who will listen to you without judgment will enable you to explore your feelings. You can then identify, acknowledge and accept them. They can also help you look at your negative thoughts and help you to challenge them. 

Many different types of counselling can help with depression; cbt, trauma therapy, interpersonal, person-centered, and psychodynamic, to name a few.


Lifestyle habits -these play an essential role in managing depression. Doing mood-boosting activities can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with depression. 

Exercise– exercise helps release endorphins which are mood boosting chemicals. Walking in nature is a great way to lift your mood, on the beach or in a forest.

Connection– spending time with friends/family- It is essential not to isolate yourself as this can make depression feel worse, so connection is vital.

Sleep– sleep can be a big issue for people suffering from depression. People can have trouble getting to sleep, sleeping too much, and/or poor quality sleep. There are ways you can implement to help with sleep; you can read more about sleep hygiene here.

Food and drink– some studies suggest that what we eat and drink can impact our mood. 

Consuming the proper nutrients from food can help keep us physically and mentally healthy. Many foods are said to boost your mood, such as nuts, grass-fed beef, fruit fish, whole grains, fermented foods, and many more.

Natural supplements

Some people take natural supplements to help eleviste depression sysmtoms. These include:

  • St Johns Wort
  • 5HTP
  • Vitamin B
  • Omega 3 fatty acids


If you are feeling low, there are places that you can contact for some help. Your GP is a good start. Check to see if any Charities in your area offer support. 

Hub of Hope is a great website to search for help, you just type your postcode into their search, and it will bring up a list of places that offer help in your area.

You can call the Samaritans free on 116123 if you need to talk to someone.