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Understanding the signs and symptoms of depression and what treatments can help

From time to time, everyone feels sad or low in mood. However, if you are suffering with depression you experience intense emotions such as sadness, hopelessness, numbness, despondency, low self-esteem and anxiety for long periods of time.

Depression is a common condition that can affect people of any age and gender. Some may experience depression due to a particular situation or event, but for others depression may develop gradually over time or an episode may seem to occur out of the blue and for no reason.

While depression is difficult to live with, help is available and with the right treatment you can take steps towards recovering.

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

Depression can affect one person in different ways to another. Below are some of the common signs of depression. If you are experiencing a number of the below symptoms of depression it is important to seek help from your GP or visit a psychotherapist or psychologist for help:

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Feeling sad and/or tearful

  • Feeling guilty

  • Feeling worthless or helpless

  • Negative feelings towards yourself or others

  • A change in your motivation to participate in activities

  • Loss of interest in life, such as less interest in doing things you used to enjoy

  • Social withdrawal

  • Self-harm

  • Low self-esteem

  • Feeling anxious

  • Feeling numb

  • Thinking about suicide

  • Feeling restless or agitated

Physical symptoms

  • Disturbed sleep, sleeping more or sleeping less

  • Changes in appetite

  • Lack of energy

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Finding it hard to concentrate

  • Finding it hard to remember things

  • Lack of libido

  • Moving or speaking slower than usual


If you are feeling suicidal do not use this website to seek help, call an ambulance, go straight to A&E or call the Samaritans on 116 123 now.

What causes depression?

There are lots of causes for depression. While for some a specific situation or stressful event may trigger an episode of depression, such as losing a job or being diagnosed with an illness, for others depression can occur gradually or feel that it has happened suddenly, with no obvious reason. There is evidence to show that difficult experiences in childhood can may individuals more likely to experience depression. For example, traumatic childhood experiences can affect your self-esteem and your ability to cope with life’s challenges in later life.

There is also evidence to suggest that if you have a close family member with depression, you are more likely to suffer with depression yourself. However, this may be due to learning behaviours and coping mechanisms from the people around you as a child, rather than as a result of genetic causes. Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence to suggest that depression is caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry. In 2017, the United Nations stated that “the dominant biomedical narrative of depression” is based on a “biased and selective use of research outcomes [that] must be abandoned”.

Alcohol and other drugs are linked to depression. Certain medications can cause depression as a side effect, so it is always important to check the information leaflets for any medication you are taking or ask your GP about the side effects of your medication. If you feel that the medication you are taking is causing you to become depressed, talk to your doctor. Physical health problems, poor sleep, poor diet and a lack of exercise can also affect your mood.

Whatever the causes of depression, identifying how you feel and developing healthy ways to manage your emotions and to recognise triggers for depression personal to you can pave the way to recovery.

What are the different types of depression?

If you believe you are suffering with depression, talk to your doctor. They will ask you questions about your symptoms to understand how best to help you. If you are diagnosed with depression, your diagnosis might be for either mild depression, moderate depression or severe depression. There are also other types of depression, including:


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): SAD is associated with the winter months, when there is less daylight. Suffers experience changes in their mood, sleeping and appetite.

Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder involves extreme changes in moods, from feelings that you are very happy and have lots of energy to feeling very lethargic, despairing and overwhelmingly worthless.

Postnatal depression: Post-natal depression usually begins shortly after giving birth, which can leave new mothers feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and struggling to sleep or to manage daily activities.

What are the treatments for depression?

If you are suffering with depression, you might be wondering ‘will I ever get feel better?’. Seeking help for depression is a sign of self awareness and personal strength. Treatment will depend on what your symptoms are, how much your symptoms are affecting you and your own preference of support. Treatment options can include counselling or psychotherapy sessions, medication or hospitalisation in more severe cases.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one form of therapy which has been shown in research studies to help with depression symptoms by helping individuals to identify how their thinking patterns and behaviours are affecting their depression and developing ways to change them.

Counselling and psychotherapy can help you to understand how your past experiences are affecting how you feel and act in your daily life now by exploring your feelings with a trained therapist. In this way, you can find new ways of understanding your emotions and overcoming your symptoms.

Antidepressants may be prescribed by your GP or psychiatrist depending on your symptoms, sometimes in addition to therapy.
Evidence-based research has found that a number of talking therapies including cognitive behavioural therapy, psycho dynamic psychotherapy and mindfulness-based therapies can help individuals with depression.

Unfortunately, there are currently long wait lists for talking therapy in the NHS, however you can refer yourself for talking therapy using the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy NHS initiative if you are a UK resident.

Helpful telephone numbers

Samaritans telephone number - 116 123

NHS telephone number - 111

Childline - 0800 1111


Recommended depression psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists specialising in treating depression:

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