Everyone feels low or sad from time to time. This is perfectly normal. If you have these feelings intensely for long periods of time and it is impacting on the way you live day to day then you may be suffering from depression.

Depression is more than just feeling low of sad during difficult times. If you are suffering depression, you can have these feelings for weeks or months for no apparent reason.

Depression is relatively common in Australia, with around a million people a year being affected by some level of depression or anxiety. A high proportion of depression sufferers don’t recognise the signs and fail to seek help or treatment. Depression is treatable and most people that seek help go on to lead normal productive lives.

There are many causes or events that can lead to the development of depression such as relationship problems, loss and grief, job loss and long term unemployment, isolation, excessive drug or alcohol abuse, social disconnection or acceptance.

Depression will vary from person to person and can be triggered by random life events or long term factors. The signs of depression are many and varied, but might include :

Sustained feelings of sadness or constantly being low for more than two weeks in a row ; losing interest in things you used to enjoy ; feeling tired and drained which makes everything too hard and not worth the effort ; out of character moodiness ; feeling irritable all the time ; increased use of drugs and alcohol ; changes up or down in weight and appetite ; unusual sleep patterns ; feeling slowed down, restless or edgy all the time ; having difficulty concentrating or making decisions and on the upper end of the scale repeatedly have thoughts about death or suicide.

If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, then you may be suffering from depression and it is very important that you talk to a health professional or your GP to get assessed and to discuss treatment options.

Talking to your doctor is sometimes the easiest step to take to address depression. Tell them how you have been feeling and they will work with you to find the best treatment options for you.

If you don’t feel ready, then talk to someone you trust. Whether that’s a friend, family member or a counsellor and let them know how you have been feeling. Recognising that you aren’t doing so well and getting it out in the open is a vital first step on the path to depression management and treatment.

Take some time to look after yourself. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and getting some exercise have all shown to help reduce depression. Also make the effort to get out and do some of the things you used to enjoy, even if it’s hard to get motivated to do so. Social interaction, spending time doing fun stuff and hanging out with friends can help you through the low points even if you don’t feel like it at the time.

Left unchecked, deep depression can lead to thoughts of death and suicide. Feeling like you can’t go on or there is no hope is a common thought process for people who are very depressed.

If you are feeling like this, then you need to seek help straight away. These thoughts aren’t likely to pass without help. If you are feeling depressed on any level, then talk to someone at LifeLine - call 13 11 14 or one of the many support services listed on the contacts page.

There is also support available via online chat if you prefer.