Depression - The Mind Map
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Table of contents

What is depression?


What are the symptoms of depression?


What causes depression?


How can counselling help with depression?


Popular depression FAQs


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What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes you to feel particularly low and unhappy for long periods of time. This can affect your daily life, impacting on your ability to carry out important tasks and enjoy everyday activities.

While everyone experiences periods of low mood on occasion, depression causes persistent feelings of sadness for weeks or months rather than a few days. At its mildest, it can make you feel upset and hopeless. At its worst, it can make life feel unbearable and prompt thoughts of suicide.

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions and can affect anyone of any age, identity, and background. It’s the most predominant mental health condition worldwide, and between 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.

Many of us might use the term ‘depressed’ quite liberally - perhaps when we don’t really mean it - but it’s important to recognise depression as a serious mental health condition. It isn’t something that someone can just snap out of, and the people it affects aren’t weaker than others. Though challenging, depression is treatable with the correct support and understanding

What are the different types of depression?

There are a number of different types of depression that someone can be diagnosed with. You might also receive a diagnosis of ‘mild,’ ‘moderate,’ or ‘severe’ depression depending on the symptoms you experience.

The following list outlines some specific types of depression:

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

This is a type of depression that occurs at certain times of the year. It’s common for the condition to occur as the seasons or weather changes, particularly during winter. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can include a change in sleeping pattern (eg. sleeping more or sleeping less) and change in eating habits (eg. craving carbohydrate-rich foods).

Perinatal depression

This type of depression occurs any time from becoming pregnant to one year after giving birth. Both antenatal and postnatal depression are covered within this term. Symptoms include feeling low, guilty, worthless, or isolated. You might also feel indifferent or hostile towards your baby, your partner, or both.


Dysthymia is a mild depression that can last for two years or more. This is also sometimes known as chronic depression.

Reactive depression

A healthcare professional can diagnose you with this type of depression if they believe that a specific life event has caused your depression. This could be a particularly stressful or distressing event like financial issues, a bereavement, or job loss.

Depression with psychotic symptoms

A severe episode of depression can bring about psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations. A delusion is where you believe something to be true despite reality. A hallucination is when you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel things that aren’t there.

Manic depression

This is an outdated term used to describe the mental health condition now known as bipolar disorder, which is a different condition to depression. This was once used as people with bipolar disorder experience extreme emotional highs known as mania, and extreme emotional lows known as depressive episodes.

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What are the symptoms of depression?

The symptoms of depression can vary as everyone’s experience with depression is different. Symptoms associated with the condition can be grouped into emotional, behavioural, and physical categories.

The following outlines some common symptoms of depression:


• Feeling sad, down, or low
• Feeling empty or numb
• Feeling guilty or worthless
• Feeling agitated or irritable
• Feeling isolated from others
• Feeling hopeless
• Feeling anxious
• Feeling less confident, or a lower self-esteem
• Feeling unable to enjoy your usual activities and interests
• Feeling like you may harm yourself or dwelling on thoughts of suicide


• Avoiding social events
• Neglecting hobbies and activities
• A lack of interest in sex
• Using more alcohol or drugs
• Self-harming or engaging in suicidal behaviours


• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty organising thoughts, speaking, or making decisions
• Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
• A lack of energy or feeling continuously tired
• A lack of appetite and losing weight, or eating more and gaining weight
• Feeling like you’re moving slowly, or feeling very restless
• Experiencing psychotic episodes, like hallucinations or delusions
• Experiencing physical aches and pains with no obvious cause
• Changes in your menstrual cycle


What causes depression?

Depression can occur for many different reasons, and a variety of factors can contribute to this. This could include emotional factors such as life challenges in your past or present, but the condition can also develop due to other physical and mental health problems.

Difficulties during childhood are believed to contribute to the development of depression in some cases. Examples of this can include a bereavement, a traumatic event, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or an unstable home environment. These experiences are known to have a significant impact on the development of self-esteem, and you may find it difficult to cope with challenges later in life depending on how you learned to manage difficult emotions as a child.

Depression can also be triggered by a significantly stressful event in your present. This could include job loss, bereavement, having a baby, a relationship breakdown, financial issues, physical or sexual assault, or being the victim of bullying or a hate crime. While these situations themselves can cause great upset, a lack of support during difficult times can result in feelings of depression too. This is especially true if you are also dealing with other stresses and responsibilities at the same time.

Your physical health may also be a contributing factor to depression. A chronic, life-limiting, or life-threatening health diagnosis can increase your risk of depression as they can be challenging to manage or accept. Examples can include a cancer diagnosis, infertility, diabetes, and heart issues. Other conditions, such as brain injuries and thyroid problems, have also been recognised as causing symptoms of depression and changes in mood.

Other mental health conditions can be linked to depression, such as anxiety or mood disorders. Depression can be triggered if you are finding another mental health condition particularly difficult to manage.

Alcohol, recreational drugs, and some prescription medications can increase feelings of depression. While some people may turn to alcohol and recreational drugs to deal with the symptoms of depression, they’re more likely to make these feelings worse. Certain prescription medications also list depression as a side effect, and it’s important to discuss this with a healthcare professional when starting a new treatment.

Research has also identified a possible genetic factor in the development of depression, as you are more at risk of the condition if a family member has been diagnosed or experiences symptoms. This research is at an early stage and has not identified a ‘depression’ gene as such. It’s thought that any familial links to depression are more likely caused by learned behaviours in early life.

"4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime"


How can counselling help with depression?

Counselling offers a safe and confidential environment to discuss any concerns you might be having about depression with a qualified therapist. It can be undertaken alongside a prescription of antidepressants from a healthcare professional.

Speaking with a therapist can help you make sense of your emotions, thoughts, and feelings with appropriate support. A therapist will listen without judgement, while offering useful skills and advice that can be applied in your daily life to help you manage challenges.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of talking therapy and the most popular counselling treatment for depression. It can help you recognise the link between your thoughts and behaviours, and how this affects your wider life circumstances. It can also provide tools that allow you to change your thinking habits and overcome negative thoughts.

If you are experiencing an urgent mental health crisis, seeking assistance from an emergency mental health service may be more beneficial than counselling. Visit the Samaritans website for more information on what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis. In urgent circumstances, contact the emergency services by dialing 999.


Popular depression FAQs

How can I tell if I have depression or a low mood?

A low mood is something everyone experiences on occasion, leaving you feeling down and upset. If this doesn’t pass and begins to interfere with your daily life, this suggests that the issue is more significant than a temporary bout of sadness and could in fact be depression. This is also true if your low mood disappears but comes back around again quickly over a few days, almost in a cycle.

Does lifestyle contribute to depression?

Lifestyle habits can’t cause depression directly, but they do increase the risk of developing depression. A poor diet, lack of exercise, and unhealthy sleeping habits can all contribute to lowering your mood. This can then exacerbate other issues going on in your life, making you feel worse or making life challenges more difficult to manage.

How can I support a friend or family member with depression?

It’s important to be understanding when helping a loved one dealing with depression. Learning more about the condition, your loved one’s experiences, and their self management skills can help you to provide positive support. Be a good listener and provide reassurance, while also offering to help them claim back some of the things they once enjoyed doing if they feel ready. Remind them that professional help is available, and know what to do if a crisis situation occurs. Read more on our blog about talking to someone with depression.

"Lifestyle habits can’t cause depression directly, but they do increase the risk of developing depression"


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