What is Depression?

Woman for Depression

It seems in today’s society and working environments that the more we become aware of the variety of Mental Health issues that can occur – the more they seem to be prevalent.

Mental Health First Aid and positive psychology strategies have never been more important – certainly to organisations in which HR and H&S departments are already running to catch up on the mental wellbeing duty of care.

For the next 6 weeks at Skills Focus Training our blog will feature a series of blog posts talking about Common Mental Health issues the Red Flags of these issues that organisations can prepare for.

This week we start with the number 1 Mental Health Issue in the country today – Depression 


Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week

What is Depression?

Depression is a common mental health problem that causes people to experience low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. Everyone can feel sad or low when things happened in their lives. however feeling sad or down does not mean that you have depression. The vast majority of periods of low mood will eventually lift and most people can learn to cope with negative feelings and manage their mood. Depression is often used as a blanket term for feeling sad. However, in this course we will be focused on clinical depression and not the short term form of depression called situational depression.

Clinical depression

Clinical depression can be described as a depressed feeling that persists for longer than a period of two weeks. his way then begin to affect a person’s demeanour, behaviour, ability to do their job, manage personal relationships, or even communicate effectively


What are the differences? 

A disappointing event or devastating news can lead to short-term symptoms of depression.

Some key differences between situational and clinical depression will determine the type of treatment the person needs and the severity of the condition.

No type of depression is more “real” than another. Both can present significant challenges and threats to wellbeing. However, knowing which type of depression is at the root of a persistent negative mood can support recovery. 

Situational depression

This is a short-term form of depression that occurs as the result of a traumatic event or change in a person’s life. (Adjustment disorder with depressed mood is another name for this emotional state.)

Triggers can include:

  • divorce
  • loss of a job
  • the death of a close friend
  • a serious accident
  • other major life changes, such as retirement

 Situational depression stems from a struggle to come to terms with dramatic life changes. Recovery is possible once an individual comes to terms with a new situation.

For instance, following the death of a parent, it may take a while before a person can accept that a family member is no longer alive. Until acceptance, they may feel unable to move on with their life.

Symptoms can include:

  • listlessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • sleeping difficulties
  • frequent episodes of crying
  • unfocused anxiety and worry
  • loss of concentration
  • withdrawal from normal activities as well as from family and friends
  • suicidal thoughts

Most people who experience situational depression begin to have symptoms within 90 days of the triggering event.

Clinical depression

Clinical depression is more severe than situational depression. It is also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It is severe enough to interfere with daily function. The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) classifies clinical depression as a mood disorder. Disturbances in levels of certain chemicals — known as neurotransmitters — may be to blame. However, other factors are likely to play a role, for example: genetic factors may influence an individual’s response to an experience or event major life events can trigger negative emotions, such as anger, disappointment, or frustration alcohol and drug dependence also have links to depression Depression can also alter a person’s thought processes and bodily functions.

Treatment differences

Situational depression is a natural response to a traumatic event. The condition usually resolves as time passes after the stressful situation or even as the situation improves when the person recovers from the life event. In most cases, situational depression is only short-term. Mild cases of situational depression often resolve without active treatment. However, some strategies can help a person reduce the effects of situational depression.

A few helpful lifestyle changes include:

  • getting regular exercise
  • eating a well-balanced diet
  • keeping to regular sleeping habits
  • talking to loved ones
  • joining a formal support group.

taking up a hobby or leisure activity. People who find it difficult to recover from a traumatic experience might wish to seek consultation with a psychotherapist. If the issue revolves around family dynamics or difficulties, family therapy is another option.People with severe situational depression might receive a prescription for medications including antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.

Treatment for clinical depression

Clinical depression can last for a long time. It may require more long-term management and an in-depth treatment plan. A doctor may recommend a combination of psychotherapy or psychological counselling and medication to treat clinical depression. A primary care physician can prescribe medicine or make a referral to a mental health professional if they feel that the individual requires this level of care. In severe cases, especially if a person tries to self-harm, they may need to stay in the hospital or attend an outpatient treatment program until symptoms improve. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can also support recovery.

Symptoms of depression may vary among people but generally encompass a feeling of sadness or hopelessness. These can include: 

  • Tiredness and loss of energy
  • Sadness that doesn’t go away
  • Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable of interesting
  • Feeling anxious all the time
  • Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Sleeping problems – difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual
  • Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Finding it hard to function at work/college/school
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Thinking about suicide and death
  • Self-harm

Red Flags

Let’s look at some of the red flags of depressive disorder that should help you spot when help is needed. A person should seek help if these symptoms have persisted for a period of two weeks or longer: