All of us have sad days, but if a low mood persists for several weeks or even months, it is possible that the person in question may be suffering from clinical depression.
According to charity Mind, one in every four people in the UK are affected by mental health problems each year. Depression and anxiety (which often go hand-in-hand) are the most commonly experienced conditions.
As anyone who has ever dealt with depression before will know, it can be extremely difficult to open up to friends and family, or even to acknowledge how you are feeling.
Whether you have noticed changes in someone you know or in yourself, here are some of the most common signs of depression.
What are the most common symptoms of depression?
Depression comes in many forms and has a wide variety of symptoms, but here are some common signs to look out for, according to the NHS:
lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessnessloss of interest in previously enjoyed activitiesfeeling tired constantlysleeping badlyloss of appetiteloss of sex driveunexplained aches and pains
In severe cases, someone with depression may experience suicidal thoughts, believing that their life is no longer worth living.
What should I do if I think I am or someone I know is depressed?
If you think you may have depression, you can seek help from your GP. You can encourage a friend or family member to do the same, but of course you cannot force them.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy commonly used to treat depression (Photo: Shutterstock)
You can take the NHS's self-assessment depression quiz before going to your doctor, if you aren't sure if your low mood equates to depression. However, if in doubt, it's always best to speak to a professional.
Are some people more prone to depression than others?
According to the NHS, those with a family history of depression are more likely to experience it, but it can affect anyone.
Big life changes can trigger depression, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job or arrival of a new baby, but remember that - like any illness - the condition can creep up on anyone at any time.
What are the treatments for depression?
Medication can be used to treat severe or moderate depression, but it is by no means the only course of action.
Talking therapies (such as cognitive behavioural therapy) are also effective, although appointments these are not always readily available through the NHS. If you are able to fund private therapy sessions, you may be able to begin dealing with your depression sooner.
For those with mild depression, making some lifestyle changes may help to improve the situation. Getting more exercise (to boost endorphins), cutting down on alcohol (which is a depressant) and eating healthily have all been proven methods of fighting depression.
Living a healthier lifestyle has been proven to help those suffering with mild depression (Photo: Shutterstock)
Joining a support group may also help you to feel less alone and understand more about depression.
What should I do if I'm having suicidal thoughts?
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call any of these free helplines for advice or simply to speak to someone who will listen:
Childline '“ for children and young people under 19Call: 0800 1111 '“ the number won't show up on your phone bill
The Silver Line '“ for older peopleCall: 0800 4 70 80 90
For other advice on how to deal with suicidal thoughts, visit the NHS website:Â nhs.uk/suicide
Main image: Shutterstock