Depression information


Welcome! Here you can find out more about depression, its causes, effects and treatment.

What is depression?

Some people still think depression is somehow trivial, they think it’s not a genuine health condition.

Depression is a real illness with real symptoms; it’s not a sign of weakness, and it’s not something you can just “snap out of.” People with depression can’t just “pull themselves together.” Depression is not the same as sadness.

A depressed person may feel anxiety, despair, even physical pain. They may not be able to sleep or concentrate. They may have no energy, feel terribly guilty, ashamed, and find no pleasure at all in life.

They may shut themselves away from people, which makes it harder to get help. Sometimes, people with depression think of suicide because things can seem futile and pointless.

It’s often a sign of depression if you find yourself asking: “what’s the point?” If you have thoughts of ending your life, it’s vitally important to contact a health professional straight away.

The good news is that modern treatments are very effective, and many people make a full recovery from depression.

What causes depression?

We don’t know for sure; it’s likely to be a mixture of things. Our genes, our experiences and our outlook on life all play a part. Sometimes depression is triggered by things that happen to us, often by some kind of loss. The loss might be of something tangible, like a job or a person; or the loss of something less tangible, like our role in life or perhaps an image of ourselves as a certain kind of person. Physical illnesses such as lung problems, heart disease, chronic pain and diabetes can all lead to depression too.

Am I depressed?

Take a look at these two questions. They’re adapted from a questionnaire called the PHQ-9.

1.   Over the last two weeks, how often have you been unable to feel interest or pleasure?

Not at all = 0.   |   several days = 1.   |   more than half the days = 2.   |   nearly every day = 3.

2.   Over the last two weeks, how often have you been feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

Not at all = 0.   |   several days = 1.   |   more than half the days = 2.   |   nearly every day = 3.

Add up your scores for the two questions, it will be somewhere between 0 and 6. If you score 3 or more, you might want to complete the PHQ-9 depression assessment. It won’t give you a diagnosis, but it will give you a better idea about your symptoms.

Treatments for depression.

Antidepressants and talking therapies (counselling or psychotherapy) are very helpful, and can be accessed through your GP. Mindfulness can help too, especially if you’ve been depressed before. Most people with depression are treated by their GP. Often, antidepressants won’t be your prescribers first choice; talking therapy can be just as effective as tablets.

If you are prescribed antidepressants, they can take several weeks to work, so don’t give up hope. Sometimes they work best when taken for a longer time, and they shouldn’t be stopped suddenly or without medical advice.

There are many approaches to the treatment of depression. If you find one doesn’t work, try a different approach until you find one you feel comfortable with, and that works for you. Make sure you give each approach a fair time to work before changing though.

Depression can make us feel alone and helpless, and it can be hard to summon the energy to get help. A simple phone call to your GP can get things moving and get you on the road to recovery. Your first appointment with a health professional can feel daunting. Many people, especially men, delay seeking help until things get really bad. Some people play down their symptoms, or don’t want to bother their GP. Thinking your symptoms are less important than other people’s is a common effect of depression.

It might be helpful to write down issues to discuss before you go, so make a note of any questions or worries you might have. Many people find it helpful to take a friend or family member along.

Depression – what works.

Act opposite.

Depression makes us want to shut ourselves away, and slows us down. It can be very, very hard, but keeping active and staying with people can be helpful. Remaining in work, or returning to work or education, might be hard too, but can help us keep a sense of control. Running away rarely helps. Keeping a normal daily routine is usually much better than withdrawing or staying in bed. We might feel like shutting ourselves away, but doing so often makes things worse.

Ask yourself: “If I were to act opposite to how I feel, what would I do?” Make a note of your answer below.

Sort stuff out.

Putting off problems makes them mount up. Are there things in your life you’re putting off dealing with? Might an advocate or some extra support help? Citizens Advice can help with a range of issues from housing to money worries. Addressing our problems relieves the burden, and makes us feel in control again.

Ask yourself: “What small thing could I do today that might help me feel better about myself?” Make a note of your answer below.

Notice beautiful things.

Some days you might notice something, however small, that is positive. It might be something you feel grateful for. Maybe a reduction in your symptoms, or a pleasant thought or memory. Keep a small notebook with you, and write it down while you remember. Keep noticing the things that are light, optimistic and hopeful, however small or fleeting. Remind yourself of the positive things you noticed in the morning and evening each day.

You can make a start below. Write down one small, positive or beautiful thing you can notice right now.


The chemicals released during exercise help counter depression. Problem is, when we feel low, we’re a lot less likely to be active. What support would you need to start a little gentle exercise?

Ask yourself: “What could I do to be a little more active?” Make a note of your answer below.

Repair relationships

If you’re struggling with a difficult relationship, or depression is causing problems in your relationships, contact Relate UK on 0845 456 1310, or you could speak to your GP about other types of counselling.

Avoid alcohol and drugs.

Alcohol is a depressant, it lowers the mood. Other non-prescribed drugs are best avoided. If you live in the UK and alcohol or drug use is a problem, contact Alcoholics Anonymous on 0845 769 7555, or Narcotics Anonymous on 0300 999 1212.


There are many good books and websites that can help. Your health professional will be able to recommend from a wide range of material.

Act now!

The sooner your recovery starts, the sooner you’ll feel better! If you’ve been affected by anything you’ve read here, contact a health professional now. Don’t delay in seeking help. Depression sometimes lifts on its own, but why wait?

Speak with your GP or a health professional for extra information, and get on the road to your recovery today.

Are you in crisis? remember the Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – in the UK, call free on 116 123.


This resource is for information only, not for diagnosis or treatment. We’ve taken care compiling this information, but make no warranty as to its accuracy or completeness. Please consult a health care professional if you are concerned about your health.

Written by: SC.
Written on: 20 September 2017.
Last updated on: 07 March 2022.
Checked by: JL.
Checked on: 07 March 2022.
Date for review: March 2025.
Flesch Reading Ease: 73.

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