Although we all feel down from time to time there’s a big difference between being simply unhappy and depression. Someone suffering from depression experiences feelings of anxiety, negativity and hopelessness. And these feelings don’t go away. Depression can happen to anyone at any time and around 2 out of 3 adults will experience it at some point in their lives. There’s a wide range for the length of depressive episodes with some experiencing only a couple in their life whereas others may experience several within a short period.

When experiencing depression, common symptoms include a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy and a constantly low mood. You may get feelings of guilt or worthlessness and poor motivation is also usual. Many sufferers experience sleeping problems such as insomnia or excessive sleeping. This cause you to feel constantly tired and lead to a lack of energy. Another symptom common to the depressed state is a poor appetite and weight loss often results from this. In addition sufferers often feel agitated or irritable. Physical symptoms can also occur with headaches, chest pains and palpitations being the most commonly reported. The severity of symptoms varies greatly from person to person but, in general, the more symptoms you experience the more likely it is that your depression is severe.

Although the exact causes of depression are unknown, research has identified several contributing factors. Depressive episodes may be triggered by stressful life events including bereavement, employment issues and relationship problems like divorce. Transitional events such as moving house or graduating can also cause a depressive episode to develop. Hormonal changes such as those occurring in puberty and menopause can also trigger an episode. A number of medical conditions can cause depression and illnesses such as panic disorder, substance abuse and anorexia which have all been shown to contribute. Depression can also be occur as a side effect of certain medications. There’s research to suggest depression has a strong genetic factor and there’s an increased risk of developing depression if a close family member has the condition.

The usual treatment for depression combines use of therapy and, if needed, medication to alleviate symptoms. The most commonly used psychological treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy, which aims to change behaviours and emotional responses through conditioning. Other specific counselling, where the patient will talk about their problems, may also be used. In addition there’s a number of professionally run self-help programs and a lot of resources available to help you take charge and combat your depression.

Antidepressant medication has been shown to relieve the symptoms of depression in most cases. Such medication won’t work straight away and a common problem is stopping the medicine before the effects have been fully achieved. If you’re prescribed antidepressants, be aware, it will take time to build them up to an effective level. There’s many different types of antidepressants and if you experience side effects then your doctor can often change the dosage or switch the medication.