Depression is a mood disorder in which you feel down most of the time and find it hard to cope day-to-day.

What is depression?

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder in which you feel down most of the time and find it hard to cope day-to-day. This affects your interest in and ability to do everyday activities or to take pleasure in the things you normally enjoy.

If you think you might be experiencing depression, we know it can feel scary and uncertain, but please know that you are not alone and that there is help and support available.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms

It’s not unusual to sometimes have mood swings, feel sensitive or irritated, or struggle to get motivated. However, if these moods or feelings go on for longer than two weeks, this could be a sign of depression.

Symptoms of depression can include:

  • Feeling sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless
  • Losing interest or pleasure in your normal activities and hobbies
  • Having difficulty sleeping, such as finding it hard to fall asleep, not being able to stay asleep or waking early
  • Lacking energy or feeling overly-tired
  • Noticing changes in your appetite, such as losing interest or having cravings
  • Losing or putting on weight
  • Feeling physical pain, such as headaches or muscle aches.

People around you may notice some changes too. For example, in younger children, a parent or adult might notice that you’re pretending to be sick, clinging to a parent or worrying that something bad is going to happen. In older children and teenagers, parents and adults might notice you getting in trouble at school or being more irritable.

Signs of depression can also be present with symptoms of other mental health difficulties, such as eating disorders or self-harm.

Sometimes, people living with depression may also have negative thoughts. If you are having these thoughts and are in immediate distress, please reach out straight away: call the emergency services on 999 in Ireland or 112 anywhere in Europe.

Causes of depression

Causes of depression

Depression is very common. In Ireland, more than one in ten people are affected by depression.

There are different factors which can cause depression, from our genetic make-up and our hormones to our backgrounds and lifestyles. Sometimes, big events or changes in our life circumstances can also trigger periods of depression: these include things such as:

  • exams
  • changes in school
  • difficulties with family or friends
  • relationship break-ups
  • moving home.

Supports and treatment

Supports and treatment

There are lots of supports to help us deal with depression and live a full life.

If you think you might be experiencing depression, a first step is to reach out to someone you trust - a parent, teacher, family member, guidance counsellor or friend - and let them know what’s going on for you.

It is important that you talk to your doctor. All of us can feel sad or low at different times in our lives, but, if this is something that goes on a long time for you or feels very intense, you may be living with depression. Getting the right assessment and diagnosis for depression helps to know what the best way forward for you will be.

Your doctor might recommend that you receive treatment for depression; this could be through a community service or by coming into hospital, like the Willow Grove Adolescent Unit.

Types of treatment for depression can include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), compassion-focused therapy(CFT), mindfulness and more. CBT looks at how our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are connected in a cycle and helps us to break these cycles by introducing changes. CFT encourages us to be more compassionate and accepting in how we view ourselves, giving us helpful ways to achieve this and reduce distress.

You might also be recommended to take a course of medication, such as anti-depressants, to help with your recovery.

Self-care practices may help you to manage some symptoms of depression or to recognise and respond to situations which might trigger your symptoms. These practices can include:

  • exercising and staying active
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • trying meditation and relaxation techniques.

If you would like more information or support options around depression, you can speak to an experienced mental health nurse by calling the Support and Information Line at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services on 01 249 3333 from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (with callback facilities outside of these hours).


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