What is Depression?

Depression is more than just a low mood. For many people being depressed can mean feeling sad, disappointed, isolated, detached, or upset.

Depression can have a significant impact on a person’s life and their ability to cope with life events. People with depression often find it hard to function every day and may be reluctant to participate in activities they once enjoyed.  People experiencing depression will often have a feeling of worthlessness and feel that the world is unfair and the future is hopeless.

Depression is one of the most common of all mental health problems. On average, 1 in 6 people, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men, will experience depression at some stage during their life. People can have different experiences of depression, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe & debilitating.

Depression 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. Often people who experience depression feel isolated and misunderstood as their condition does not make sense to most others who haven’t experienced it.

Symptoms of depression include:
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities and daily routine
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Worry and negative thinking
  • Change in weight and appetite
  • Lack of motivation, fatigue
  • Worthlessness/inappropriate guilt
  • Mood changes such as increased levels of irritability, anxiety or anger
  • Hopelessness

Sarah answers What is Depression?

Causes of Depression

Alongside the study of the personal factors causing depression, there is a growing body of research on the topic of physiology. Physiology, in relation to depression, looks at stress hormones, brain chemicals, and brain configuration. The part of the brain, which centers around communication, is made up of chemicals and nerve cells called neurotransmitters.  When neurotransmitters are altered or reduced the body’s functioning is affected. The three neurotransmitters that are believed to be associated with depression are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine because they are involved in regulating mood, behaviour, and emotions.

Depression is not simply the result of a chemical imbalance. Depression is caused by a combination of physiology and personal factors, it is important to understand depression in terms of the interactions between biological, social, and psychological processes.