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What is depression?

Everyone feels distressed from time to time and that is normal. Many things change in adolescent years, physically, emotionally and socially and it is common for those changes to come with fluctuations in mood and well-being. However, when mental illness is beginning to have a significant inhibitory effect on daily life, it may indicate that depression is present and it is important to intervene.

Depression is a mental disorder that affects thought, well-being and behaviour. It is characterised by, among other things, sadness, lack of happiness, lack of interest and fatigue. Depression is very common and is considered to be the fourth largest health problem in the world. Everyone can get depression and it can occur at any time in their life. Depression is a disorder that usually occurs in cycles, where symptoms are present for a limited period of time, but then a symptom-less or symptom-free period occurs. Once people have experienced depression, there is an increased likelihood that they will have another depressive episode, although it is not certain that it will happen again. It is important to seek help to learn to cope with depression.

Many factors can affect whether an individual develops depression. In some cases, this occurs as a result of an event or shock, for example during a divorce, losing a loved one, a broken heart or bullying. The way people think and their attitude towards themselves, the future and the world can also encourage depression. Other factors that can have an effect are physical condition, stress, substance abuse, other mental disorders, physical illnesses and drug side effects. However, when depression develops, it is probably due to a combination of many of these factors and it may not necessarily be possible to point to any one obvious explanation.

A common misconception about depression is that those who appear to be happy cannot be depressed. People’s behaviour can vary greatly and the manifestation of depression is different. Depression can be so inhibitory that the person cannot attend to basic needs or daily tasks such as attending work or school. Others may be active in work, school, social life, sports or other things and, therefore, do not necessarily show that they struggle with depression. Then, it is possible that those who interact with the person do not notice their symptoms. That can be very dangerous because it is less likely that those who stand next to them will not realise that a problem exists and be able to assist them in getting help.

When a person is struggling with depression, it can be difficult for them to imagine that the situation can improve, but professional treatment for depression is effective and can greatly improve your well-being.