The word depression is used to describe various and sometimes overlapping experiences. To many people being depressed means feeling sad, ‘blue’, downhearted, disappointed, detached or upset. However, a person can feel all these emotions without being ‘clinically’ depressed. Feelings of sadness or the ‘blues’ are generally brief and have slight effects on normal functioning.

Clinical depression is an emotional, physical and cognitive (thinking) state that is intense and long-lasting and has more negative effects on a person’s day-to-day life. Approximately one in five people will experience an episode of clinical depression in their lifetime.

It is also important to distinguish depression from the sadness we naturally experience after loss, such as during bereavement. Although the grief associated with loss is often intense and long lasting, such emotions are a healthy response to loss and allow people to adjust to their new life circumstances. Depression on the other hand, can have significant and detrimental effects on many aspects of a person’s life. It is generally important to consider what is causing and maintaining the depression for improvement to take place. This may involve a person approaching life stresses or relationships differently, making lifestyle changes, regaining self-esteem or reconnecting with his or her values.

Finally, it is helpful for depressed people to understand what depression is and isn’t. It is not something to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. It is not a character flaw or a sign of weakness, or a lack in discipline or personal strength. It is not just a ‘mood’ that someone can ‘snap out of’. Most importantly, depression is not permanent – that is, the chances for recovery are very good. A number of psychological and pharmacological treatments (antidepressant medication) are effective, affordable and readily available.

What are the causes of depression?

  • Hereditary
  • Biochemical
  • Stress
  • Personality

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities and daily routine
  • Worrying and negative thinking
  • Irritability, agitation and fatigue
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Hopelessness

How to manage the symptoms of depression

  • There is evidence to show that increasing activity levels and participating in pleasurable activities can help reduce depressive symptoms.
  • Changing negative thinking patterns and reducing worry can help alleviate depressive symptoms. Professional assistance is often required to achieve the change.
  • Being irritable or agitated is a normal part of depression. It is important that people close to you are aware of this so that they can be more patient and understanding irritable or agitated, rather than annoyed and unsupportive. When agitated stop and settle yourself down.  Practice regular exercise and meditation and be as active as possible despite fatigue.
  • Regular healthy sleeping patterns are extremely important for people recovering from depression. Make sure that you go to bed around the same time each night.  Avoid sleeping during the day.  Reduce tea and coffee intake and if you wake up at night do not lie in bed for more than 30 minutes.  Get up and engage in another activity, such as reading.  When you feel sleepy, return to bed.
  • If you feel that your situation is hopeless and particularly if suicidal thoughts are present, it is essential to seek help and to speak to someone about how you are feeling

Other resources on depression

To read more about depression, go to the following websites or phone the listed services:

beyondblue Australiabeyondblue
Phone: 1300 22 4636


Black Dog Instituteblack_dog_institute
Phone: (02) 9382 4530


Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and DepressionCRUfAD
Phone: (02) 8382 1408

Source: The Australian Psychological Society Limited 2015