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Everyone feels sad from time to time. However, these feelings are usually short-lived, lasting only a few days. Depression is where these feelings are severe or long lasting. Depression leaves you feeling 'down' most of the time and finding it hard to cope from day to day. Depression is increasingly common, affecting one in 10 people in the population.

Depression has a number of possible causes – genetic, biochemical, hormonal or situational. Significant life events can trigger periods of depression such as exam or work stress, family turmoil or concerns around identity or sexual orientation.

Signs and symptoms

The general rule of thumb is that an individual can be diagnosed with depression if they experience five or more depressive symptoms for more than two weeks. 

Depressive symptoms include:

  • Feelings of overwhelming sadness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities or hobbies that are usually enjoyed 
  • Sleep disturbances; having difficulty sleeping, waking early, not being able to fall asleep, feeling overly tired or having no energy to get out of bed
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Physical pain including headaches or muscle aches
  • Having recurrent thoughts of death, suicide or self-harm.

Treatment

Less than 40% of people with depression get any professional help, despite the fact that depression is a very treatable condition. Untreated depression can have negative impacts including employment issues, strain on relationships, drug and alcohol use and suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Those who do seek help for depression may have often experienced symptoms for many months or even years. 

With proper assessment and diagnosis, recovery from depression can begin within weeks of commencement of a treatment plan. Most people go on to live healthy and happy lives with treatment. 

If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of depression, your first point of contact should be your GP. Following assessment by your GP, they may recommend that you are referred for an assessment at one of our community mental health clinics called the Dean Clinics or alternatively, your GP may suggest that you need to come into hospital.

In St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, our Depression Recovery Service provides a comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment, treatment and aftercare service for those with depression. In line with international best practice guidelines for depression, it aims to deliver treatment in an accessible and flexible way along with providing follow-up care and support for those who require it.  

Useful resources

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Eating Disorders