Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world. It causes feelings of sadness and loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities. It can also disrupt sleep and appetite, and make it difficult to concentrate or think clearly.
The exact cause of depression is unknown, but researchers believe that a combination of factors leads to the condition. Stressful life events such as bereavement or a relationship break-up, illness, financial worries and work-related problems are all known to trigger depression. Other factors that may increase the risk of developing depression are a family history of the disorder, low self-esteem and overly self-critical behaviour.
Some physical illnesses can also trigger depression, such as thyroid problems and menopause. The exact role of brain chemistry in depression is unclear, but recent research suggests that changes in the levels of neurotransmitters and hormones may play a part.
Symptoms of depression vary from person to person. Some people with depression have very severe symptoms, while others may only have mild ones. Some people with depression feel very hopeless or have no desire to do anything but sit in their bed.
It’s normal to be sad at times, but if these feelings are persistent or interfere with your daily life, it’s important to see a doctor. Your symptoms can be treated, and getting help early could save your life.
Depression is more common in women and people who were assigned female at birth, but men can also develop it. It can also affect children and adolescents, and it’s more common in people with a family history of the disorder.
Taking steps to prevent it is important, and it may involve talking with your friends or family, joining a support group, reading a self-help book, avoiding alcohol and drugs and changing your diet. You can also try to exercise and take part in healthy lifestyle choices that boost your mood.
It can be hard to recognise if you’re depressed, but it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. The earlier you receive treatment, the sooner you’ll be able to get back on track with your life.
Clinical depression is a term used by doctors to refer to an episode of depression that has been diagnosed and treated with medications. Your doctor will use criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or the International Classification of Diseases to help them assess your symptoms.
The exact symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, but they include feeling down or depressed most of the time, having a lack of interest in most things, poor concentration or memory, losing appetite or eating too much or not enough and having low energy. These symptoms are usually present for two weeks or more.
They can also include thoughts of death or suicide, and they affect your ability to function at work, school, home or socially. They can also make you feel physically unwell, including headaches, stomachaches and insomnia.