You are not alone

The word "depression" is often used to describe the normal feelings of sadness which all of us experience at various stages of our lives. Because depression is so common, it is important to understand the difference between unhappiness or sadness in daily life and the symptoms of clinical depression.Clinical depression is a state of extreme distress in which the sufferer feels empty or numb rather then merely sad. The depressed person is unable to enjoy life normally or have an emotional shift from the depressed state. A persistent depressed mood may be the feature of a Mood Disorder when it is present all or most of the time for at least two weeks.In a Major Depressive Episode, someone might also experience:

  • either diminished appetite with weight loss or increased appetite with weight gain,
  • either insomnia or increased sleep,
  • either agitation or slowed movements,
  • loss of all pleasure and enjoyment,
  • tiredness and fatigue,
  • feelings of guilt and worthlessness,
  • poor concentration, and
  • thoughts of death, including suicidal thoughts and plans.

Suicidal thoughts are always abnormal, and are an indication of needing urgent help

At one point or another most people talk of feeling depressed, but there's a big difference between feeling blue or a bit sad and clinical depression.

In the last decade there has been a significant effort to boost public awareness of mood disorders – especially depression – and provide support for those affected by the illness.

In reality, depression is more akin to a feeling of numbness than a feeling of sadness. And while it can be triggered by a particular event like loss of a job or a loved one, it can also come on for no apparent reason.

It's unfortunate that we use the same word for two different things – a low mood, and a diagnosable illness. It means people often fail to recognize the symptoms of depression, and don't get treatment for it. At its worst, severe depression can end in suicide.

In reality everyone can be vulnerable to depression: in Australia one in four women and one in six men will experience an episode of clinical depression during their lifetime.

You know you're depressed when ...Edit

So how do you distinguish between clinical, "capital D" Depression and the common old blues? For some people, the symptoms are obvious. But others manage to keep up their daily routine, not really knowing what's wrong.

To get a doctors' diagnosis of clinical depression (also called 'major' depression), you have to have at least five of the following symptoms, including number 1 or number 2, for at least two weeks:

  1. Depressed mood (feeling sad or low)
  2. Loss of interest or pleasure (in activities you normally enjoy)
  3. Significant appetite or weight loss or gain
  4. Insomnia or hyper-somnia (sleeping too little or too much)
  5. Psycho-motor agitation or retardation (being restless and jittery, or alternatively, slower than usual)
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  8. Impaired thinking or concentration; indecisiveness
  9. Suicidal thoughts/thoughts of death. (read more)

More information on depression can be found at the following websites: (Australian sites)

  • Beyondblue - the national depression initiative; a national, independent, not for profit organization working to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related substance misuse disorders in Australia.
  • DepressionNet - provides a comprehensive online resource providing information, help and support for people living with depression and their families and friends.
  • MoodGYM - training program delivering cognitive behavioral therapy for preventing depression.
  • BluePages - information about depression for consumers.
  • YBBlue - the youth/adolescent arm of beyond blue.

Remember, you should seek professional help from a mental health professional, mental health service, your GP or health provider when problems arise.