Depression is more than just feeling a sad. Depression persists, for weeks, months or even years; affecting different people in different ways and it can have many and varied symptoms.

Everyone is at risk of depression, but not everyone develops depression. When depression occurs, it becomes serious, and a person will have a diminished capacity to affect their own state of mind. Major depression and bipolar disorders seem to affect some individuals more than others. Research in America has shown that 10% of adults experience depression each year, but 2/3 of them will not get the help they need. Treatment can actually alleviate the symptoms in over 80% of the cases, but often it goes unrecognised and people suffer unnecessarily.

Triggers to Depression
Many factors can lead to depression.  It is thought that there could be a hereditary component or due to chemical changes in brain function.  A normally functioning brain is a giant messaging system that controls everything from your heartbeat, to walking, to your emotions. The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells called neurons. These neurons send and receive messages from the rest of your body, using brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.  These brain chemicals, in varying amounts, are responsible for our emotional state. Depression happens when these chemical messages are not delivered correctly between brain cells, disrupting communication.

Elated mood is part of normal experience.  It can, however, occur as a psychiatric symptom of a number of different disorders though is less common than depressed symptoms. Some people suffering from episodic periods of depression may also experience sudden, joyful elation in bipolar disorder. There are clinical reports of individuals experiencing mania without depression, this is quite rare.

Causes of Depression
It is not known exactly what causes clinical depression. There are several theories about causes such as biological and genetic factors, environmental influences, childhood or developmental events.  It is more generally believed that clinical depression is often caused by one or more factors.  For example, a person whose mother has depression, combined with how the person thinks about themselves can increase the risk of developing depression.

Causes of clinical depression can be different for different people. Some may have an episode that appears to be out of nowhere, whilst others may have depression relating to a significant event, such as loss of a loved one.  


Unipolar depression, bipolar depression and dysthymia are the three most common forms of depression.  

  • Dysthymia is a less serious type of depression that has long term, chronic symptoms, but it does not disable the person in the same way as unipolar or bipolar depression, but it does prevent the person from feeling good or functioning well in their lives.  People with dysthymia may also suffer major episodes of depression at some points in their lives.
  • Unipolar Depression is also known as major depression. The person has a combination of symptoms that interfere with their ability to eat, sleep, study, work and enjoy life. A person may suffer this type of depression many times in their life or only once.  It is more than simply a feeling of sadness, clinical depression will have symptoms lasting two weeks or longer and the symptoms will be severe enough to interfere with their daily living.  Clinical depression affects more women than men.
  • Bipolar Depression is also known as manic depressive illness/manic depression/bipolar affective disorder. It is characterised by cycles of mood changes with severe lows (depression) and severe highs (mania). Bipolar is a brain disorder that can cause unusual shifts in a person’s mood, ability to function and energy.  The ups and downs experienced by a person with bipolar disorder are more severe than the normal ups and downs a person experiences in their everyday life.  It is thought that around 1% of adults suffer from bipolar depression.  Bipolar affects men and women in equal numbers.  These moods can result in damage to their work performance, school performance, relationships and sometimes even lead to suicide.  Bipolar disorder can be treated by medication and psychotherapy to enable the person to live full and productive lives.  If untreated, the person can deteriorate into a psychotic state.

Diagnosing depression or the type of depression does require a certain level of expertise. Be very careful about jumping to conclusions. If you really want to understand depression and other mental disorders properly; you need to study the subject in appropriate depth under th3e guidance of appropriately qualified teachers (as found in our school).