Depression symptoms may vary among people but generally encompass a feeling of sadness or hopelessness. These can include3:
Tiredness and loss of energy
Sadness that doesn’t go away
Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable of interesting
Feeling anxious all the time
Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
Sleeping problems – difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual
Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Finding it hard to function at work/college/school
Loss of appetite
Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems
Physical aches and pains
Thinking about suicide and death
Depression symptoms can vary in severity, from mild to moderate to severe depression. If you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day – every day – for more than two weeks, you should seek help from your GP.
Depression is a complex condition and its causes are not fully understood. However, various contributing factors can lead to depression. These can include biological factors (for example, genetics4 or experience of physical illness or injury5) and psychological or social factors (experiences dating back to childhood6, unemployment7, bereavement8, or life-changing events9 such as pregnancy. Having a long-standing or life-threatening illness, such as heart disease, back pain or cancer, has been associated with an increased risk of depression10.
Common treatment approaches for depression include talking therapies and medication.
Talking therapies involve speaking in confidence to a trained professional about problems or issues that may be causing concern. Types of talking therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling and psychotherapy, and your GP can advise you about which approach you may find most helpful.
Another treatment option for depression is to take antidepressants. These can be taken on their own or in conjunction with talking therapies.
There are various types of antidepressants available and you can speak with your GP about what might suit you best. If one medication does not work, you may be prescribed something else. It is important that you take the medicine for the length of time recommended by your GP.
For more information about antidepressants, please see NHS Choices.
Your treatment approach will be informed by the severity of your depression. Those with mild to moderate depression may benefit from talking therapies whilst people experiencing moderate to severe depression may find antidepressants or combination therapy to be more appropriate. There are other treatment options beyond medication and talking therapies. For instance, people with mild depression might find exercise, self-help or mental health apps to be helpful.3
If you have depression, it is important to speak with your GP or care provider for more detail and to discuss which treatment may be most appropriate for you.
Further Resources and Information
NHS App Library of self-help and self-management apps
NHS Tips for Coping with Depression
Organisations that offer individual help and support