What is depression?
Depression doesn’t just mean the normal feelings of sadness that everyone experiences when life gets difficult. It can be sadness that doesn’t go away, or a loss of interest or pleasure in the things you used to enjoy, plus a range of other changes in the way you feel, think or act. If these feelings last for more than 2 weeks, it could be depression.
Depression can be sadness that doesn’t go away, a loss of interest or pleasure in the things you used to enjoy, or a range of other changes in the way you feel, think or act that lasts for more than 2 weeks.
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If you think you could be depressed, the first step to getting better is talking to someone about it. If you feel life is not worth living, you need to get help immediately by calling Lifeline 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or one of the other services listed in the What to do next if you feel depressed section.
Common symptoms of depression are:
- low mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- a change in your weight or appetite (an increase or a decrease)
- insomnia, or sleeping more
- feeling restless or slowed down
- fatigue or loss of energy
- feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- problems concentrating or making decisions
- recurrent thoughts of death, or thinking about or attempting suicide.
How does depression start?
Most people with major depression first get it in their late 20s. Children can get depression, but it is more common in teenagers.
The symptoms of depression usually develop over days to weeks, although the low mood might start in the months before. It can be triggered by life events, or it may just happen out of the blue.
How long does depression last?
With effective treatment, about half of people with moderate depression will be much better within 6 to 8 weeks. For people who don’t get treatment, the duration of depression varies widely. Some will get better after several months, some will recover partially, and others will continue to be depressed long term.
Do you need a mood check-up? Take the quiz
Over the past two weeks, have you felt consistently:
Down, depressed or hopeless?
Little interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy?
This doesn't necessarily mean you are depressed but it does show you need to be checked out. Go and talk to your general practitioner (GP) and tell them how you've been feeling. If you feel life is not worth living, call Lifeline (13 11 14) or the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467).
Great! It sounds like you're OK, but if you are worried about your mental health for any other reason, talk to your GP.
For more information
- Treatment for depression
- Medicines for depression: antidepressants
- Psychological therapies
- What to do next if you feel depressed
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: summary of results, 2007. Canberra: ABS, 2008. (accessed 9 February 2012).
- Ellis P; Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Clinical Practice Guidelines Team for Depression. Australian and New Zealand clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of depression. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2004;38:389–407. (accessed 9 February 2012).
- National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. Depression: the NICE guideline on the treatment and management of depression in adults (updated edition). London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2010. (accessed 9 February 2012).