The truth about depression

Published 24 April, 2017

One in five people suffer with depression every year in the UK – and many deal with it in silence, too embarrassed to get help. If that sounds like you, or someone you know, here’s what to do

What is depression?
Depression is a broad term used to describe a mental state in which you feel sad, and are unable to enjoy things. It can be mild (a flu-like feeling that makes you tired and despondent), moderate (when your low mood starts impacting work, family, and life) or severe (when you’re unable to do simple tasks and feel completely hopeless).

How does it start?
A general feeling of depression can start because of an event in your life – a bereavement or the loss of your job, for example. But it can also occur out of the blue. This type of depression is called clinical depression, and is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, usually serotonin. Clinical depression can be hereditary, making some people more susceptible than others. And, if you’ve suffered with depression in the past, you have a 50 per cent chance of it recurring in the future.

What can help?

Getting outside
The mental health charity Mind found that outdoor exercise, or ‘ecotherapy’, can be beneficial in reducing people’s feelings of depression. Anything from walking to cycling, or gardening and conservation work, is worth a try. Visit to get involved with an outdoor project.

Being honest
Whether it’s your GP, your best friend, or your partner, it can be helpful to tell someone that you’re feeling depressed. Being open about what you’re going through could help you feel less burdened, and the person you tell could help you find support.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
This form of talking therapy focuses on ways to help you change your thoughts and behaviour, and can be just as effective as medication for the treatment of depression. But, you’ll need to be prepared to commit to the therapy and confront, at times difficult, thoughts and feelings. See your GP for more information.

Medication like antidepressants work by rebalancing the chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These can be a lifesaver for some sufferers, but they’re most effective for moderate to severe depression, rather than mild cases. They’re especially effective when combined with a form of talking therapy, like Congnitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Speak to your GP to find out more about antidepressants and if they’re right for you.

What if I’m feeling low, but not depressed?
If you’ve had a bad day and need to lift your mood, try doing something you love – like cooking, going for a walk, or visiting a friend. Meditation can also help realign your thoughts, and certain herbs and spices – like sage and saffron – are thought to have antidepressant qualities, so it could be worth mixing up your meals.

Find more fab ideas and inspiration in the Be Happy book, available to buy in the WW shop.

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