Common signs and symptoms of depression
How you might feel
down, upset or tearful
restless, agitated or irritable
guilty, worthless and down on yourself
empty and numb
isolated and unable to relate to other people
finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
a sense of unreality
no self-confidence or self-esteem
hopeless and despairing
avoid social events and activities you usually enjoy
self-harm or feel suicidal
have difficulty speaking, thinking clearly or making decisions
lose interest in sex
have difficulty remembering or concentrating on things
use more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
have difficulty sleeping, or sleep too much
feel tired all the time
have no appetite and lose weight, or eat too much and gain weight
have physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
move very slowly, or be restless and agitated
There’s good evidence to show that going through difficult experiences in your childhood can make you vulnerable to experiencing depression later in life.
This could be:
physical, sexual or emotional abuse
the loss of someone close to you
an unstable family situation
We know that going through lots of smaller challenging experiences can have a bigger impact on your vulnerability to depression than experiencing one major traumatic event.
Difficult experiences during your childhood can have a big impact on your self esteem and how you learned to cope with difficult emotions and situations. This can make you feel less able to cope with life's ups and downs, and lead to depression later in life.
NAPAC support anyone who experienced abuse in childhood – including sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and neglect.
In many cases, you might find your depression has been triggered by an unwelcome, stressful or traumatic event.
This could be:
losing your job or unemployment
the end of a relationship
major life changes, like changing job, moving house or getting married
being physically or sexually assaulted
being bullied or abused, including experiencing racism
It's not just negative experiences that cause depression, but how we deal with them. If you don't have support to help you cope with the difficult emotions that come with these events, or if you're already dealing with other difficult situations, you might find that a low mood develops into depression.
Other mental health problems
If you experience another mental health problem, it's common to also experience depression. This might be because coping with the symptoms of your mental health problem can trigger depression. You may find you experience depression if you also experience:
Physical health problems
Poor health can contribute to your risk of developing depression. Many health problems can be quite difficult to manage and can have a big impact on your mood.
These could be:
chronic (long-term) physical health problems
life-threatening physical illnesses
physical health problems that significantly change your lifestyle
You might be offered support for your mental health at the same time as you are treated for a physical health problem.
There are some physical health problems that can cause depression and these include
conditions affecting the brain and nervous system
hormonal problems, especially thyroid and parathyroid problems
symptoms relating to the menstrual cycle or the menopause
low blood sugar
If you think any of the above applies to you, make sure your doctor knows about them. Some can be diagnosed by simple blood tests – your doctor may suggest these are done to help make the right diagnosis, or you can ask for blood tests if you think they may be relevant.
Research has shown that if you have a close family member with depression, you’re more likely to experience depression yourself.
While this might be caused by our biology, this link could also be because we usually learn behaviour and ways of coping from the people around us as we grow up.
Medication, recreational drugs and alcohol
Depression can be a side effect of taking a lot of different medicines. If you’re feeling depressed after starting any kind of medication, check the patient information leaflet to see whether depression is a side effect, or ask your doctor. If you think a drug is causing your depression, you can talk to your doctor about taking an alternative, especially if you’re expecting your treatment to last some time.
Alcohol and recreational drugs can both cause depression. Although you might initially use them to make yourself feel better, or to distract yourself, they can make you feel worse overall.
Sleep, diet and exercise
A poor diet and lack of sleep and exercise can affect your mood, and make it harder for you to cope with difficult things going on in your life.
Although a poor diet, or not getting enough sleep or exercise, can’t directly cause depression, they can make you more vulnerable to developing it.
Look after your physical health
Try to get good sleep
For lots of people who experience depression, sleeping too little or too much can be a daily problem. Getting good sleep can help to improve your mood and increase your energy levels
Think about your diet
Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. See our pages on food and mood for more tips.
Try to do some physical activity
Many people find exercise a challenge but activities like yoga, swimming or walking can be a big boost to your mood. If you don't feel confident doing exercise, you could start off with smaller activities - such as gentle chair-based exercises in your own home - and build from there. See our pages on physical activity and your mental health for more information.
Try to look after your hygiene
When you're experiencing depression, it's easy for hygiene to not feel like a priority. But small things, like taking a shower and getting fully dressed whether or not you're going out of the house, can make a big difference to how you feel.
Try to avoid recreational drugs and alcohol
While you might want to use recreational drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings about yourself, in the long run they can make you feel worse and can prevent you from dealing with underlying problems.
Try to keep active
Try joining a group
This could be anything from a community project or a sports team to a hobby group. The important thing is to find an activity you enjoy, or perhaps something you've always wanted to try, to help you feel motivated.
Try new things
Trying something new, like starting a new hobby, learning something new or even trying new food, can help boost your mood and break unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour.
Set realistic goals
Try to set yourself achievable goals, like getting dressed every day or cooking yourself a meal. Achieving these things can help you feel good and boost your self-confidence, and help you move on to bigger goals.