Depression is a mental health condition which consists of a wide range of symptoms which affect your mood and behaviours. Most commonly, depression is associated with low mood, losing interest in things you once enjoyed, suicidal thoughts / tendencies and shutting yourself off from the rest of the world.
It is important to remember that depression can vary in severity and different people may show different symptoms depending on their individual circumstances. Therefore, treatments plans are often tailored specifically for each individual, to ensure that their needs are being met.
Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions, affecting 1 in 6 adults in the UK alone.
Causes of Depression:
There are many ideas surrounding the causes of depression. However, research shows that it is very unlikely to be one singular cause.
Causes can vary from person to person, for example, some may be able to pin point a combination of causes whereas others may find that they have become depressed with no obvious cause/trigger.
There are some risk factors when it comes to the development of depression. While the following is not a complete list of potential triggers/causes, these are some of the most common that have been sighted via research studies:
- Childhood trauma
- Stressful life events (these can be positive or negative; such as having a baby or losing a loved one)
- Other mental health conditions (Anxiety, PTSD, Schizophrenia)
- Physical health concerns
- Family history
- Recreation drug and alcohol use
- Sleep, diet and exercise
- Experiencing continuous low mood
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling helpless
- Being tearful
- Feeling guilt-ridden
- Being easily irritated and feeling intolerant of others
- Having a lack of motivation and losing interest in things you may have once enjoyed
- Finding it hard to make decisions
- Feeling as though you are not getting any enjoyment out of life
- Being anxious and worried
- Feeling suicidal and/or having thoughts of harming yourself
- Moving and/or speaking more slowly than usual
- Changes in appetite (losing or gaining weight – more often losing)
- Unexplainable aches and pains
- Having a lack of energy
- Loss of libido
- Changes in your menstrual cycle (for women)
- Disturbed sleeping pattern – Sleeping too much or not enough, having trouble falling asleep, waking up very early in the morning and being unable to get back to sleep
- Avoiding social events
- Not doing well in work/school/college/university
- Avoiding contact with friends and family
- Neglecting once loved hobbies and activities
- Experiencing difficulties at home and with family life
While depression can affect anyone of any age and from any background, it has been found that women are twice as likely as men to experience the condition.
There are multiple forms of treatment for depression and these will depend on the severity of the individuals condition.
For those whose GP deems their condition to be less severe, they may be offered some form of self-help treatment. These treatments are much more easily accessed than others and can be done alone or with support from healthcare professionals.
Guided Self Help Programme: This tends to focus on the individuals thoughts, feelings and behaviours and looking how they interact. After looking at these factors, they will be offered some coping mechanisms / strategies to help them re-train their brain and help them to work through their depression in a healthy manner. The health professional may have regular check-ins with the individual to see how they are progressing, these can be over the phone, in person or online.
Physical Activity Programme: These programmes incorporate exercise into the individuals day-to-day life as a method of producing more serotonin in the brain and helping to boost mood.
Their GP may help them to find group exercise classes that are tailored specifically for people with depression as well as helping them to find other exercise classed for free or at an affordable cost.
There have been many scientific studies around exercise and depression that have proven it to be an important part in recovery as well as preventing depression in the future.
For those with more severe, long-term symptoms, their GP is likely to offer them a form of talking therapy.
The most common therapy for depression is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This focuses on changing the way the individual thinks about things and helps them to re-wire their thought processes. Other therapies include mindfulness therapy, interpersonal therapy and problem-solving therapy. Most of these can be offered as one-to-one sessions or group sessions.
Medication may also be offered alongside therapy as a way of helping to balance out the chemicals within the brain.
15% of women with depression seek treatment, compared to just 9% of men.
Other types of depression:
- Postnatal Depression
- Bipolar Disorder
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
Across the UK, rates of depression are still much higher than they were prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Around 17% of adults experienced some form of depression in the summer of 2021, compared to 10% before the pandemic.
If you think that you might be suffering from depression, please speak to your GP and get the help that you deserve. You can also contact The Samaritans on 116123 or call NHS 111, who will be able to direct you to services that best suit your needs.
*Updated: July 2023*