Depression (also called unipolar depression or clinical depression) is a type of mental illness or mood disorder. Most people feel sad, discouraged, or "down" sometimes, but that is not depression. In clinical depression, these feelings last for a long time and are combined with other symptoms. Depression for example is also associated with manic depression otherwise known as bipolar affective disorder.

Someone with depression might have these symptoms: strong sad feelings or no strong feelings at all, feeling guilty, feeling helpless or hopeless, anxiety, fear, low self-esteem or a loss of interest in life. These are symptoms of depression when they last for a long time (usually for more two weeks). Some people who are depressed think about committing suicide (killing themselves). Some people with depression do kill themselves.

If you think you or someone you know may be depressed and need to talk, call Samaritans on 0800 726 666 in complete confidence.

How common is depression?

Ten percent of people have depression at some time in their lives. Depression happens most often in people between the ages of 13 and 60 years. About twenty times as many women as men are diagnosed with depression, but this is probably because women often are better at talking about, and putting words to, their feelings than men.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Depressed mood.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure.
  • Feelings of much sadness, or little to no emotion.
  • Less interest in things that are normally fun.
  • Changing appetite (eating less, or, less commonly, eating more) and weight.
  • Sleeping less or, in some cases, sleeping more.
  • Fatigue (feeling tired) of mind and body.
  • Feelings of guilt, helplessness, anxiety, and/or fear, often with little or no reason.
  • Lowered self-esteem.
  • Thinking about death or suicide (and an increased risk of committing suicide).
  • Drug or alcohol use.

Depression in children is harder to notice. Signs a child may have depression include:

  • Loss of appetite (not wanting to eat).
  • Sleep problems such as nightmares.
  • Problems with behavior or grades at school where there were none before.
  • IBS-Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Eg Constipation.

If you think you may be suffering from depression, it is important to contact your local doctor and seek professional help and support.