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Understanding Stigma and its Effects


Learning objectives

  • Understand the symptoms of depression
  • Understand the causes of depression


One of the main mental health problems that face a large number of people in the UK every year is depression. 

Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life. In its mildest form, depression can mean just being low or sad. It doesn’t stop you from going about normal life but makes everything harder to do and see, less worthwhile. 

At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live. 

Depression has a lot of causes and triggers while affecting people in different ways. Signs and symptoms of depression are different for everyone, but there are some common symptoms that people struggling with depression have reported.

Throughout this module, you will learn the effects and causes of depression, and also learn different methods on how to help people that are struggling and how to help yourself if you believe you are suffering with depression. 

Symptoms of Depression

Sometimes depression can be quite hard to recognise when you are suffering with it. Maybe you can’t put your finger on it, but you aren’t feeling yourself. Struggling to cope everyday looks different for everyone too, people suffering with depression will experience a range of different symptoms. Some signs and symptoms of depressions include:

  • Lacking energy or feeling tired

  • Feeling exhausted all the time regardless of the amount of sleep you get

  • Finding it hard to think clearly

  • Finding it hard to concentrate

  • Feeling restless and agitated

  • Feeling tearful, wanting to cry all the time

  • Not wanting to talk to or be with people

  • Not wanting to do things you usually enjoy

  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings

  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things and tasks

  • Experiencing ‘burn out’

These are only some symptoms of depression, you may be experiencing different symptoms, but if you think these symptoms sound like you or someone you know, then you should get in touch with some of the help-contacts on our website so you can get some further help.

Causes of Depression

Depression can be caused by a variety of different distresses which vary a lot between different people. A combination of different distresses and factors may cause their depression. It is also possible that people find themselves becoming depressed without any obvious reason. 

Mind UK identified some common possible causes of depression that include:

  • Childhood experiences

  • Life events

  • Physical health problems

  • Genetic inheritance

  • Medication, recreational drugs and alcohol

  • Sleep, diet and exercise. 

Childhood Experiences

Difficult experiences in your childhood have been shown to make you vulnerable to experiencing depression later in life. Experiences like 

  • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse

  • Neglect

  • The loss of someone close to you

  • Traumatic events

  • Unstable family situation.

Experiencing any of these can have a massive impact on your self-esteem and less likely to have learned to cope with difficult emotions and situations.

Life Events

Depression can often be caused by stressful or traumatic events that someone may experience in everyday life. 

Events that cause this could be: 

  • Losing your job or unemployment

  • The end of a relationship

  • Bereavement/loss

  • Major life changes like changing job, moving house or getting married

  • Being physically or sexually assaulted

  • Being bullied or abused.

Feeling depressed is not just caused by the negative experiences themselves, but often how we deal with them. If you don’t have much support during these times, it can be very hard to cope with the difficult emotions that come with these events.

Physical Health Problems

Poor physical health can contribute to your risk of developing depression, especially ones that can be difficult to manage, having a big impact on your emotions. Health problems including:

  • Chronic physical health problems

  • Life-threatening physical illnesses

  • Physical health problems that significantly change your lifestyle.

Some physical health problems that can cause depression:

  • Conditions affecting the brain and nervous system

  • Hormonal problems

  • Low blood sugar

  • Sleep problems.

If you are struggling with any of these issues, your doctor may be able to suggest some best ways to help cope with the mental health ramifications of the conditions.

Generic Inheritance

Although there hasn’t been any specific genes for depression identified, research has shown that if you have a close family member with depression, you are more likely to experience depression yourself.

Medication, recreational drugs and alcohol.

Often side effects of medication include depression, if you are feeling depressed after starting any kind of medication, it is useful to check the information leaflet to see whether depression is a side effect. If you think the drug is causing depression, it is worth speaking to your doctor about taking an alternative, especially if you are expecting your treatment to last some time. 

Alcohol and recreational drugs both can cause depression. Although they can help with social connection, and you might use them to initially use them to make yourself feel better, they often hide the true cause of your depression.

Sleep, Diet and Exercise

A poor diet, lack of sleep and exercise can often affect your mood, making it harder for you to cope with the experiences and stressors that can often cause depression. Although a poor diet, or not getting enough sleep or exercise cannot directly cause depression, they can make you more vulnerable to developing it. 

For more information about sleep hygiene, a healthy diet and good exercise, check our website for the respective pages.