What is depression?

Depression is the term used to describe feelings of extreme sadness that lasts for weeks or months (not just days). These feelings are usually severe enough that they interfere with daily life.

How do I know if I have depression?

We all feel fed up or sad from time to time. Although unpleasant, these feelings don’t usually last long and don’t interfere with our lives too much. However, if the feelings don’t lift after a few days (e.g. if they go for weeks or months) and/or they are so severe that they interfere with your life (i.e. they stop you from going out with friends, going to work, enjoying life), then you may be experiencing depression. Some people don’t recognise their depression straight away as it can come on gradually.

People’s experiences of depression vary. However, common depression symptoms include: feeling unhappy most of the time; feeling hopeless and helpless; loss of interest in life, sex and/or activities that you used to enjoy; finding it hard to make decisions; feeling unable to cope with things that used to feel manageable; feeling tired, lethargic, exhausted, restless and agitated; low self-confidence; change in appetite and weight; and difficulties with getting to sleep and then waking up early in the morning. Some people who feel depressed also think about suicide.

What should I do if I think I have depression?

It is important to remember that we all feel sad or low in mood at various times in our life and for most people talking to a close friend or relative often helps us to feel better. However, if you think your feelings of depression are getting worse, if they are impacting on your work, interests and feelings towards your family, or if you feel that life isn’t worth living anymore then there are various ways in which you can access support. Your GP is likely to be the first person you will see about your depression. Your GP might then recommend further treatment.

What can I do to help myself?

There are a number of things you can try:

  • Talk to someone – talking about problems can help us feel better. Try talking to friends or relatives that you are close to.
  • Self-help books and websites – there are a number of self-help books and websites that are available to support people with depression. There are self-help computer packages available too, which can be accessed through your GP.
  • Self-help groups – a good way of getting in touch with people who are going through similar experiences. You can look for these on the internet.

What professional help could I get?

You can talk to your GP about how you are feeling. They may recommend:

  • Medication
  • Talking therapy

Talking therapy

  • There are different types of talking therapy.
  • You might be offered counselling, which will provide you with a confidential space in which to talk to someone about your concerns.
  • You may be offered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, a form of talking therapy which encourages you to examine how your thoughts, feelings and behaviour interact and how they might contribute to your experience of depression. The therapy also encourages you to develop more helpful ways of thinking and behaving.

Where can I find out more?

Mental Health Forum website:

Depression – An Overview

National Health Service website:


Royal College of Psychiatrists website:



Self-Help Website:


Discuss your depression issues on the Mental Health Forum

Depression Forum

The Mental Health Forum thanks the anonymous author for writing this article. It has been written especially for the Mental Health Forum.