We use the word ‘depression’ to describe a range of moods, from feeling low to a much more serious state which interferes with everyday life.  

You may be uncertain whether or not you are depressed. Everyone’s experience of depression is different, and there are a wide variety of symptoms.  Many people feel down occasionally, or go through bad patches, but still have areas in their lives that make them feel good, and can still find things to like about themselves.

For some people, though, life is more of a struggle. They feel bad about themselves and their lives in most ways. At times they feel complete despair. If you feel like this, then you may well be depressed

Causes of Depression
It seems that depression can be due to multiple causes, and for different individuals, at different times, different factors may predispose, cause or prolong depression.

Exogenous depression

This is the term used for depression which is due to external psychosocial factors. It may also be called reactive depression because the sufferer is reacting to a problem outside of themselves, such as a life event like a bereavement.

Endogenous depression

This is the term used for depression which is due to internal physiological factors, such as low levels of certain neurotransmitters, and which may arise from within the personality. 

In practice, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between these two types of depression, and they could in practice be combined to produce a depressive state. For example, if you feel sad beause of a loss, you may neglect to eat properly.  This could affect your natural  levels of serotonin which will then further contribute to your feelings of sadness and 'depression'.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Disliking or even hating yourself or people in general.      
  • Feeling useless, inadequate, bad or guilty
  • Thinking negatively; always seeing the worst in everything.
  • Finding everything a terrible effort, not wanting to get out of bed and face the world.
  • Being very irritable.
  • Finding it impossible to concentrate for any length of time.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Eating too little or too much.
  • Heavy dependency on alcohol or drugs.
  • Cutting yourself off from others   
  • Unable to stop crying or unable to release tears.
  • Having physical aches and pains

Dealing with depression
With moderate depression there are things you can do to help yourself:

  • Keep as occupied as you can with things that interest you.
  • Do things which makes you laugh.
  • The food you eat does affect your mood, so eat regularly, and make healthy choices.
  • Alcohol is a depressant, so consider your use of it.
  • Pay attention to your appearance to make yourself feel good.
  • Treat yourself from time to time.
  • Try to make your living environment as pleasant and comfortable as possible.
  • Try telling a friend how you are feeling. People are usually very willing to listen.
  • Notice your negative thoughts - especially about yourself. Are you judging yourself much more harshly than you would a friend?
  • There is increasing evidence that moderate exercise and physical activity can have a positive effect in challenging depression.  This is due to various causes, such as altered body chemistry, improved body function, changed sense of self, changed focus of attention.

Getting help

It may be difficult to put any of the above
suggestions into action if you are depressed. If
you feel you are depressed, then it is important that you seek help. You do not have to struggle alone.

If you are severely depressed, if you cannot function normally e.g. you are not going to lectures/eating/getting out of bed, and if you are actively considering suicide, it is especially important that you seriously consider getting help to deal with it.

Being depressed does not mean you are weak or inadequate.  What is important, and takes courage, is to seek help to strengthen your own resources, and perhaps put new resources in place, so that you can find a way out of your depression.

If you would like to talk to a counsellor about your depression, contact the Student Counselling Service. As well as helping you to look at particular causes of your depression, a counsellor can help you to learn to recognise your own particular set of symptoms which tell you you’re depressed and help you to develop coping mechanisms for managing them.

Don’t be afraid to see your GP if you are depressed. Your GP may  refer you to further appropriate help, or may offer medication in the form of anti-depressants.

Medication does not necessarily take away the cause of the depression, but may help to lift your depression enough to enable you to take action in additional ways to deal with the depression

There are many web sites dealing with depression.  Useful ones are:

Bristol Crisis for Women have a national helpline available on Fridays and Saturdays 9pm-12.30am and Sundays 6pm-9pm

The Samaritans have a 24 hour helpline: 08457 909090