The word 'depression' is used to describe everyday feelings of low mood which can affect us all from time to time. Feeling sad or fed up is a normal reaction to experiences that are upsetting, stressful or difficult; those feelings will usually pass.
If you are affected by depression, you are not 'just' sad or upset. You have an illness which means that intense feeling of persistent sadness, helplessness and hopelessness are accompanied by physical effects such as sleeplessness, a loss of energy, or physical aches and pains.
Sometimes people may not realise how depressed they are, especially if they have been feeling the same for a long time, if they have been trying to cope with their depression by keeping themselves busy, or if their depressive symptoms are more physical than emotional.
Here is a list of the most common symptoms of depression. As a general rule, if you have experienced four or more of these symptoms, for most of the day nearly every day, for over two weeks, then you should seek help.
Tiredness and loss of energy
Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting
Undue feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
Sleeping problems - difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual
Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends
Finding it hard to function at work/college/school
Loss of appetite
Loss of sex drive and/ or sexual problems
Physical aches and pains
Thinking about suicide and death
If you start feeling like you can't cope, life is becoming very difficult or your life isn't worth living, get help. These are signs that you need to talk to someone.
Either contact your GP or call NHS Direct (0845 4647). You can also contact helplines such as PTSD Resolution (0845 021 7873) for confidential, non-judgemental emotional support.
If you've had depression and/or anxiety in the past, even if they weren't formally diagnosed, seek help immediately. You're more likely to have an episode of depression if you've had one before.