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On this page: What is depression? | What is the impact of Depression? | How does Depression develop? | How can a psychologist help?

What is Depression?

To many people, being depressed means feeling sad, moody, down, ‘blue’ or upset. These feelings are generally brief and have a limited impact on a person’s day to day life. All of these emotions can be experienced without being ‘clinically’ depressed. Clinical depression, also called Major Depression, is diagnosed when a person has been feeling sad and down, not been enjoying things as they normally would, and experiencing other problems such as difficulty with concentration and changes to appetite and sleep, for at least two weeks. Clinical depression has serious effects on physical as well as mental health, and people who are suffering from clinical depression find it difficult to function every day.

Depression is very common. On average, one in five people will experience depression at some stage in their lives. In Australia, around one million adults and 100,000 young people will experience depression each year.

What is the impact of Depression?

Symptoms common to depression include: loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and daily routine, changes in sleeping patterns (over sleeping and/or insomnia), and feeling sad, down or miserable most of the time. Depression is commonly associated with anxiety (see our Generalised Anxiety Disorder fact sheet for further information). People with depression often experience irritability, agitation and fatigue. They frequently worry about the future and have negative thoughts about their circumstances, or about themselves.

How does Depression develop?

Depression is often caused by a mix of recent events and other personal factors. It is important to remember that everyone is different and it is often a combination of factors that puts a person at risk of developing depression. Some events or situations which have been linked with depression include: family conflict, isolation or loneliness, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, and having a serious medical illness. Depression and anxiety can also run in families.

How can a psychologist help?

Depression is often not treated or recognized. Symptoms of depression may continue for weeks or months if left untreated, however, depression is not permanent and the chances for complete recovery (with treatment) are excellent.

Psychologists have an important role to play with people experiencing depression. Speaking with a psychologist can help a person understand their symptoms and learn how to improve their ability to cope. Psychologists provide a supportive environment to explore and work through issues such as sorting out relationship difficulties or changing negative patterns. Research has shown that cognitive behaviour therapy is particularly helpful in treating depression. This form of therapy provides strategies and skills to help lessen and manage depression, and reduce sensitivity to future episodes of depression.

Taken from

  • Australian Psychological Society (2004). Understanding and Managing Depression: An APS Tip Sheet.

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