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Major depression is very different to feeling down or blue. Most people at some stage of their life have experienced feelings of low mood and a lack of get up and go. Low mood is a normal and often unavoidable part of human experience. Major depression on the other hand, tends to be prolonged and has a much bigger impact on everyday functioning and life in general. The lowered mood experienced in major depression is unlikely to vary from day to day. Depression is often classified according to whether it is mild, moderate or severe. Different treatments are available for the differing degrees of depression and this will be something a health professional will be able to help you with.

The Symptoms of Depression

In order to meet the criteria for diagnosis for major depression the sufferer will have been feeling persistently down and or will have lost the ability to enjoy pleasures or interests for at least two weeks. People with major depression are also likely to experience three or more (in addition to the symptoms of low mood and loss of pleasure) of the following symptoms: significant weight change or change in appetite; sleep disturbance; observable agitation or retardation; loss of energy; feeling worthless or unnecessarily guilty (not about being depressed); poor concentration or decision making; and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

What Can I Do Whilst I Am Waiting For Professional Help?

  • In order to develop a better understanding of perhaps what has caused your depression and how you can overcome your problem it is advisable that you speak to a therapist. Alternatively, you can consult Feeling Good: the new mood therapy by David Burns, Overcoming Depression by Paul Gilbert (Robinson), Manage Your Mood by David Veale and Rob Willson, or Mind over Mood by Christine Padesky and Dennis Greenberg.
  • Visit your GP to explore the option of medication (your GP and the texts recommended above will be able to provide you with more information about the various medications available to treat depression) and or get a referral to a mental health professional. Finally, you can contact the Depression Alliance 0845 123 23 20 ( for more help and advice.
  • Exercise has been proven to be helpful in overcoming mild depression in particular. Try three sessions of activity per week of around 45 minutes each. However, any exercise is beneficial so do what you can. Also, try to eat regularly and have a good diet, including fresh fruit and vegetables. In any case, always consult your GP before starting an exercise regime, particularly if you are overweight or have an preexisting physical health problems.

What Should I Do If I Feel Suicidal?

If you are contemplating suicide consider speaking to someone you trust to alert them to the way you are feeling. This could be a friend, family, or if you are religious a priest, rabbi etc. Remember, some people will react badly to your suicidal thoughts; however, this is likely to be because they are frightened or angry. The Samaritans are always on hand to help and will offer non judgmental listening and support to you at this difficult time. The information you give them will be treated with the strictest confidence and they will NOT attempt to trace your call. The Samaritans phone, email and face to face support services are available 24/7. Simply call 08457909090, email or visit their website at Just talking through the way you are feeling can sometimes help to relieve some pressure and help you make sense of your thoughts and feelings.

Another option could be to get in touch with your local community mental health team (you can be referred to them via your GP or your local accident and emergency department). If you are intent on ending your own life and/or have a method in mind for how you are going to do this, consider going to accident and emergency at your closest or local hospital. A member of the medical staff will be on hand to talk through the way you are feeling with you. Alternatively, call NHS direct 08454647.

In summary, keep talking to people about how you are feeling and try to remember that there is always another option, one that is not so final and one that offer you the prospect of starting to feel well again. Suicide will not give you this option.

What Are The Other Types of Depressive Disorders?

Depression can often result in the development and maintenance of a number of depressive disorders. Listed below are some of the main types of disorders associated with depression. This list is not exhaustive:

1. Bipolar affective disorder (sometimes known as manic depression, bipolar or bipolar depression)
What is it?
These disorders are typically characterized by reoccurring episodes of 'mania' and 'major depression', spread with periods of well-being. The symptoms vary along a spectrum.

An episode of Mania is constantly heightened mood lasting at least a week and can sometimes be experienced as irritability. During a period of Mania the individual will experience at least three of the following symptoms: overly inflated self esteem, which can seem delusional; decreased need for sleep; pressure of speech or flight of ideas; distractibility; increased need for involvement in goal directed activities; and involvement in potentially reckless activities. These symptoms are likely to have a significant impact on the sufferer's ability to function in his/her life. Periods which are not so extreme are labelled 'hypomania'.

In contrast, an episode of Major Depression is a period of severe low mood which is experienced for approximately two weeks. This period of depression must be accompanied by five or more of the symptoms of major depression (see 'symptoms of depression' above). A diagnosis of BD is given when both depressive episodes and manic episodes are shown.

People can switch rapidly between mania and depression, but depressive phases tend to last longer than manic episodes.

How can I get help?

Visit your GP if you are concerned about BD. A therapist will also be able to provide you with more information and be able to offer you effective interventions that can help manage BD.

For more information about BD you can call MDF- the Bipolar Organisation on 0845 6 340 540 or visit ( Alternatively you can read Bipolar Disorder - The Ultimate Guide by Sarah Owen and Amanda Saunders or Bipolar Disorder for Dummies by Candida Fink M.D. and Joe Kraynak.

2. Postnatal/Postpartum Depression (PND)

What is it?

PND is an episode of depression that most commonly occurs in women (although can occur in men) following childbirth. Symptoms are usually the same as the symptoms of major depression (see above). Symptoms are persistent and can occur both immediately and months after the birth of a child. Although PND affects around 10-15% of all new mothers, it can leave the sufferer feeling isolated and a failure as a parent.

It is not fully understood what causes PND, however research has identified factors that are associated with PND. These are: low self esteem; childcare stress; prenatal depression during pregnancy; prenatal anxiety; life stress; low social support; poor marital relationship; infant temperament problem (e.g. colic); single parent; low socioeconomic status; and unplanned/unwanted pregnancy. Other research suggests that women diagnosed with PND are more likely to focus on the negative events of childcare, resulting in poor coping strategies.

How can I get help?

Visit your GP if you are concerned about PND. A therapist will also be able to provide you with more information and be able to offer you effective interventions that can help manage PND. Alternatively, you can visit The Association for Post-Natal Illness at ( or call them on 0207 386 0868.

3. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
What is it?

Little is still understood about SAD. What is known is that symptoms occur in the winter and cease in the summer season. The symptoms appear to be dependent on the amount of daylight the sufferer receives. In order for SAD to be diagnosed, depressive episodes in winter should substantially outnumber the non-winter depressive episodes that may have occurred over the sufferer's life. Also two major depressive episodes should have occurred in the last two years of the sufferer's life that demonstrate a relationship between the depressive symptoms and the season that they occurred in.

How can I get help?

Visit your GP if you are concerned about SAD. A therapist will also be able to provide you with more information and be able to offer you effective interventions that can help manage SAD. For more information about SAD you can consult Winter Blues by Norman Rosenthal.

*Please remember, all the mental health disorders mentioned above are manageable or completely treatable for most people with the correct intervention, so do not suffer in silence and get some help!

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Essex CBT Therapy offer counselling services throughout London & the following areas in Essex

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