Clinical depression is an illness, a medical condition. It significantly affects the way someone feels, causing a persistent lowering of mood. Depression is often accompanied by a range of other physical and psychological symptoms that can interfere with the way a person is able to function in their everyday life. The symptoms of depression generally react positively to treatment.
Depression has a variety of symptoms and will affect everyone in different ways. Symptoms include:
There are a number of possible causes of depression. Depression can be a reaction to a distressing situation like loss or stress (reactive depression). Some women experience depression following the birth of a child (post-natal depression).
Depression can be part of an illness like bipolar disorder in which the person experiences extreme moods without any reason — very high and very excited, or very low and depressed.
Depression can be unrelated to any outside cause, but associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain (endogenous depression). Sometimes the person may be affected so much that they experience the symptoms of psychosis and are unable to distinguish what is real.
Children and teenagers can also become depressed. This can show itself in different ways to depression in adults, and they are best helped by a doctor who is a specialist in this area.
Every year, around 6 per cent of all adult Australians are affected by a depressive illness.
Treatment can do much to reduce and even eliminate the symptoms of depression. Treatment may include a combination of medication, individual therapy and community support. Sometimes electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be helpful too.
It is important to ask your doctor about any concerns you have.
Last Reviewed: 01 January 2011