Get help now Make a donation


Learn about depression, its symptoms and possible causes, and how you can access treatment and support. Find tips on caring for yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health problem that involves having a low mood or losing interest and enjoyment in things. It can also cause a range of other changes to how you feel or behave.

The symptoms you experience may vary. How intense they are, how long they last, and how much they affect your daily life can also vary.

If you experience milder depression, you might have low mood but still be able to carry on with your daily life. But things may feel harder and less worthwhile.

If you have more severe depression, you might find day-to-day life much more difficult. You may also experience suicidal feelings.

Watch: What is depression? 

Watch our animation to learn more about what depression is, how it might feel – and where to get help. 

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

When does low mood become depression?

We all have times when our mood is low, and we feel sad or fed up. Often these feelings happen for a reason and pass on their own.

But it might be depression if the feelings become so bad that they interfere with our daily life. Or if they last for several weeks or months.

See our page on the symptoms of depression for more information.

Are there different types of depression?

If you're diagnosed with depression, you might also be told that it is ‘less severe’ or ‘more severe’. This describes how your symptoms are affecting you, and what treatment you're likely to be offered. You may find that the severity of your depression changes over time. 

Sometimes you might hear depression being called ‘major depressive disorder’. There are some other types of depression too:

  • Persistent depressive disorder (PDD). PDD is continuous depression that lasts for 2 years or more. You may also hear it called dysthymia or chronic depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is depression that occurs at a particular time of year, or during a particular season. See our page on SAD for more information.
  • Antenatal depression. This is depression that occurs while you are pregnant. It is sometimes called prenatal depression.
  • Postnatal depression (PND). This is depression that occurs in the first year after having a baby. This can include affecting dads and partners. See our pages on postnatal depression and perinatal mental health for more information.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This is a hormone-related disorder that affects your body but also how you feel. This can involve experiencing depression. So your doctor may describe this as a mental health problem.

See our page on diagnosis to learn more about how different mental health problems are diagnosed.

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.

Annika's experience of depression

For Annika, depression made her anxious to slow down or relax. She was worried what would happen if she didn't keep busy.

Watch Annika's story to learn how depression affected her – and how she finds comfort in walking in nature, her faith, and helping others.

This information was published in April 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

arrow_upwardBack to Top