understanding & managing depression

How can you tell if feeling down has crossed the line into depression?

Take this quick, free survey to see if depression may be a problem for you.

a psychologist can help with depression

A clinical psychologist has specialist training in helping people to understand and manage depression. Therapy is never a ‘one-size-fits-all’ and so, through talking with a client, a psychologist can develop a unique understanding of the factors that contribute to a client’s depression. A treatment plan is then tailored specifically for the individual based on evidence-based strategies for managing symptoms of depression. A good place to start is understanding what depression is. 

What is depression?

Signs and symptoms

types of depression disorders

What causes depression





what is depression? 

Feeling sad or having a ‘down' day is a normal part of life. When things go wrong it is normal to feel disappointed or sad for a day or two but then bounce back. Depression however refers to a complex illness with a range of symptoms that are more intense, long-lasting, distressing and interfere with day-to-day life.

signs and symptoms

Depression is diagnosed if symptoms have persisted for 2 or more weeks. Exact symptoms vary from person to person but key signs can include:

  • Feeling sad, empty or lowered mood
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Restlessness
  • Low energy
  • Low motivation or difficulty getting started
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, or excessive guilt
  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions
  • Negative thoughts
  • Thoughts of suicide or a feeling that life is not worth living

types of depression disorders


Those suffering with major depression feel a severe sense of despair, with symptoms that make it hard to do normal daily tasks such as eating, sleeping, working or being with friends and family. A period of major depression may last for a few weeks or can last several years in its chronic form.


Dysthymia is a less severe type of depression with low mood, low motivation and lack of energy that can have a serious impact on the individual’s life. Sufferers may have short periods of improved mood, but these often do not last more than a few weeks. In its chronic form, dysthymia can last for years and if left untreated sufferers are more likely to develop major depression.


Bipolar affective disorder is a serious illness in which sufferers typically fluctuate between low (depression) and high (mania) moods.  There are several types of bipolar disorder and the duration and severity of symptoms vary.


This is a mild form of bipolar affective disorder where sufferers can fluctuate between hypomania and mild depression, sometimes with periods of feeling ‘normal’. Cyclothymia can often go undiagnosed because the symptoms are less severe.


Postnatal depression and anxiety is a serious and at times, debilitating illnesses that can affect not just a new mother but everyone around her. PNDA can be mild, moderate or severe and symptoms can begin suddenly after birth or appear gradually in the weeks or months during the first year after birth. It can happen after miscarriage or stillbirth, normal or traumatic delivery, or caesarean delivery.


While depression and anxiety are different conditions, they often occur together. People who suffer with anxiety can feel emotionally drained and hopeless about how they will manage in the future which can cause depression. Equally, people with depression can become fearful of the future and how they will be able to cope, which can lead to feelings of anxiety.  It is important to seek help for both conditions.

what causes depression?

There is no single cause of depression. For some, stressful life events like the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the ending of a close relationship might trigger depression. For other people, there is no obvious cause. There are a number of known risk factors:

  • Genes or having a relative with depression
  • Poor physical health
  • Personal psychological factors, like a negative thinking style or tendency to worry
  • Stressful life events including neglect or abuse during childhood
  • Neurochemistry, in particular, levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine

treatments that help

Medical and Psychological treatments are available and are often used together.


There are many effective psychological treatments for depression that address current issues and symptoms and aim to reduce the likelihood of having future episodes of depression.


Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) aims to identify, examine and modify unhelpful negative thoughts and increase activities that improve mood and quality of life. Problem-solving to address causes of stress and lowered mood can also be an important component.


Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) involves addressing problems in personal relationships that contribute to depression. The aims of therapy include finding new ways to: develop and nurture relationships, resolve conflicts with others, express emotions, communicate more effectively, adapt to life-role changes, and improve social support networks.


ACT is a form of mindfulness based therapy that helps people accept the difficulties that come with life. The aim is to promote greater well-being by overcoming negative thoughts and feelings. ACT focuses on 3 areas: Accept your reactions and be present;  Choose a valued direction and Take action.


A medical review by a GP or Psychiatrist is very important to understand the type of depression and how best to manage the condition. The main medical treatment for depression is antidepressant medication which can be very useful in the treatment of moderate to severe depression and some anxiety disorders.  Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed when other treatments have not been successful or when psychological treatments aren't possible due to the severity of the condition. People with more severe forms of depression (eg., bipolar disorder) generally need to be treated with medication. This may include one or a combination of mood stabilisers, anti-psychotic drugs and antidepressants.

When to seek professional help

When low mood persists for over two weeks and is affecting a person’s work, school, home life, or relationships, professional assistance should be considered. If unsure, speak with your GP.


We especially love the following books and they are available from our office.  When you read any books on depression, remember that they are guides only.  

Taming the black dog: a guide to overcoming depression by Bev Aisbett

This easy to ready and illustrated book has a unique blend of wit and information and is an invaluable guide for both chronic sufferers of depression as well as anyone with a fit of 'the blues'.

ISBN: 9780730493310

The Happiness Trap Pocketbook by Bev Aisbett and Dr Russ Harris

This is an illustrated, simplified pocketbook version of Russ’s original bestseller ‘The Happiness Trap’. It’s an easy-to-read introduction to the scientifically proven, mindfulness-based approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (better known as ACT) that can help you find genuine wellbeing and fulfilment.

ISBN: 9781921966187