What is depression?

"It (depression) is not a fleeting sadness but a pervasive and relentless sense of despair. A lack of interest in life accompanied by weight loss, loss of appetite, feelings of uselessness and sleep disturbance are some of the more common symptoms.

People with depression can't just 'snap-out of it'.

There can be an array of causes – it can be due to stresses in the home or at work, or it can just come out of the blue. Sometimes family history can be a major factor."

– Professor Scott Henderson, Director of NHMRC Centre for Mental Health Research at ANU


Clinical depression is a complex illness in many ways.

While there is a medical list of symptoms which summarises to less than a dozen or so bullet points, there is nothing simple about identifying depression as an illness, getting the right treatment, learning to control the illness rather than have it control us, preventing relapse or any of the many other issues involved in reducing the impact of depression on our lives and the lives of those around us.

Living with and/or loving someone with depression has its own myriad of complex issues for which there are no simple answers.

We are all different and what works for us will depend on the particular nature of our illness, our personalities. our life situation, support networks, and so much more.

With many of these issues, it is the abitlity to communicate with other people like us who live with depression that is often needed to find what works for us best, and fastest. 


Symptoms of Depression

Understanding Depression

'Types' of Depression

Igniters of Depression


An official definition of depression…

Source: World Health Organisation's International Classification of Disease

  • Two weeks of abnormal depressed mood
  • Loss of interest and decreased energy
  • Loss of confidence
  • Excessive guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of death
  • Poor concentration
  • Agitation or retardation
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Change in appetite
  • Mild depression includes the first two symptoms and at least one other. Severe depression is the first two symptoms and at least five others.

Now for a list of symptoms which may be more familiar…

People with depression experience many of the following for prolonged periods:

sadness, lethargy, helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, difficulties with decisions, memory, concentration, loss of interest, energy, changes to sleep patterns – difficulty sleeping or staying awake, changes in weight – either significant loss or gain in weight, relationship problems with partners, friends, family, colleagues, isolation, thoughts of death, suicide, anxiousness, unusual fear or feeling panic.

The degrees of these experiences will vary greatly. If you have many of these symptoms for prolonged period you are very probably experiencing depression, and should see your doctor regarding a professional assessment and treatment.

Importantly, there are also other illnesses which may produce similar symptoms to depression, and that require a very different treatment.  Your doctor will be able to test for these.

If you only have a few of these symptoms and don't consider yourself to be depressed, treatment for depression, either traditional or alternate, may help.  It is certainly worth speaking with a medical professional you are comfortable with.  

Don't wait until you are really unwell before you do something
to improve your mental health & well being!