What are normal feelings and what's depression?
We all feel 'down' or sad from time to time - it's part of being
human. 'Sadness' is a reaction to something in particular, like a
relationship break-up. 'Depression' means that feelings of sadness
last longer than normal, affect most parts of your life, and stop
you enjoying the things that you used to.
There are a several different types of depression. Major
depression usually happens in episodes, when depressed feelings
build up slowly over a few weeks. Young people often have mood
swings (feeling 'up' sometimes as well as 'down') and may be more
irritable and sensitive than usual. This means major depression is
sometimes hard to diagnose, being mistaken for normal adolescent
Typical symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of unhappiness, moodiness and irritability, and
sometimes emptiness or numbness
- Losing interest and pleasure in activities that you once
- Loss of appetite and weight (but sometimes people 'comfort eat'
and put on weight)
- Either trouble sleeping, or over-sleeping and staying in bed
most of the day
- Tiredness, lack of energy and motivation
- Feeling worried or tense
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Feeling bad, worthless or guilty
- Being self-critical and self-blaming
- Having dark and gloomy thoughts, including thoughts of death or
Dysthymia is a milder type of depression but it is often
continuous and can last for months or years. People with dysthymia
might still be able to perform their day-to-day tasks, but with
less interest, confidence and enjoyment. Dysthymia also interferes
with sleep, appetite, energy and concentration.
Depression can also occur as part of bipolar disorder.
People with depression might have other mental or physical
health problems as well, such as anxiety or excessive use of
cigarettes, alcohol or illegal drugs.
Depression and suicide
Anyone who is depressed may be at risk of suicide, and if they
are, they need urgent help. If someone seems to be thinking about
suicide, try to arrange some support from close, trusted friends or
family, remove things that can be used to commit suicide (like
tablets or guns) and try to encourage them to see a health
You can call your local hospital or mental health service for
support. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mental
health teams can see people who are suicidal at any time of the
day, wherever they are.
Getting help for depression
It's important to talk about your problems. Ask for help and
speak to someone you trust, whether a parent, teacher, school
counsellor, family member or friend. A general practitioner
(doctor) is a good place to start when seeking help and
Most people are able to recover from depression when they
receive professional treatment. Treatments are usually based on
psychological ('talking') therapy, adding medications when they are
needed. Depending on the type of treatment, most people start to
feel better or notice an improvement, after about two to six
Healthy eating and exercise can help improve your mood. Try
relaxation techniques, writing down your feelings, reducing stress
and avoiding alcohol and other drugs, but remember that some days
will be better than others. Overcoming depression can take time,
especially if it has been around for a while and has become a 'way
For more information on how to get help see the getting help
section of this website.
This information was produced in conjunction with ORYGEN