Explains depression, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

A letter to depression

Antalia shares a letter to depression.

Antalia Terblanche
Posted on 24/05/2016

Depression: sharing my story

Andy Baddeley, 1,500m runner and two-time Olympian, blogs about his experiences of depression.

Andy Baddeley
Posted on 27/05/2015

Blogging, depression and my nan

Georgina blogs about opening up about her experience of depression on her blog, on Facebook and to her Nan

Georgina Woolfrey
Posted on 05/08/2015

What is depression?

Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live.

It feels like I'm stuck under a huge grey-black cloud. It's dark and isolating, smothering me at every opportunity.

When does low mood become depression?

We all have times when our mood is low, and we’re feeling sad or miserable about life. Usually these feelings pass in due course.

But if the feelings are interfering with your life and don't go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back over and over again for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you're experiencing depression.

It starts as sadness then I feel myself shutting down, becoming less capable of coping. Eventually, I just feel numb and empty.

Are there different types of depression?

If you are given a diagnosis of depression, you might be told that you have mild, moderate or severe depression. This describes what sort of impact your symptoms are having on you currently, and what sort of treatment you're likely to be offered. You might move between different mild, moderate and severe depression during one episode of depression or across different episodes.

There are also some specific types of depression:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – depression that usually (but not always) occurs in the winter. SAD Association provides information and advice. See our page on SAD for more information.
  • Dysthymia – continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more. Also called persistent depressive disorder or chronic depression.
  • Prenatal depression – sometimes also called antenatal depression, it occurs during pregnancy.
  • Postnatal depression (PND) – occurs in the weeks and months after becoming a parent. Postnatal depression is usually diagnosed in women but it can affect men, too.

See our page on postnatal depression for more information. PANDAS also has information and support for anyone experiencing pre- or postnatal depression.

Is premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD) a type of depression?

PDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Many women experience PMS, but for some women their symptoms are severe enough to seriously impact their daily life. This is when you might receive a diagnosis of PDD.

While PDD is not a type of depression, most women who experience PDD find that depression is a major symptom. See NHS Choices for more information about PMS and PDD.

 Sometimes it feels like a black hole but sometimes it feels like I need to cry and scream and kick and shout. Sometimes I go quiet and lock myself in my room and sometimes I have to be doing something at all times of the day to distract myself.

What's it like to have depression?

Watch Hannah, Helen, Rishi, Nathan and Georgina talking about what it feels like to have depression, how they've learnt to cope and how their friends and family help them.

This information was published in June 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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