Articles - General

What is Depression?

(Source: Beyond Blue)

What is Depression?

Depression is more than just a low mood - it's a serious illness. While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to
time, some people experience these feelings intensely, for long periods of time and often without reason. People
with depression find it hard to function every day and may be reluctant to participate in activities they once enjoyed.
Is depression common?
Very common. Around one million Australian adults and 100,000 young people live with depression each year. On
average, one in five people will experience depression in their lifetime - one in four females and one in six males.
Depression is one of the most common of all mental health problems. One in five people experience depression at
some stage of their lives.

Types of Depression

Different types of depression often have slightly different symptoms and may require different treatments. The five
main types of depression are listed below.

  • Major depression - a depressed mood that lasts for at least two weeks. This may also be referred to as clinical depression or unipolar depression.
  • Psychotic depression - a depressed mood which includes symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis involves seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations), feeling everyone is against you (paranoia) and having delusions.
  • Dysthymia - a less severe depressed mood that lasts for years.
  • Mixed depression and anxiety - a combination of symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Bipolar disorder - (formally known as manic depressive illness) - involves periods of feeling low (depressed) and high (manic).

Signs and Symptoms

If you notice any behavioural changes that last for more than two weeks in family members or friends, then it is
worth asking if the person may be depressed. Common behaviour associated with depression includes:

  • moodiness that is out of character
  • increased irritability and frustration
  • finding it hard to take minor personal criticisms
  • spending less time with friends and family
  • loss of interest in food, sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities
  • being awake throughout the night
  • increased alcohol and drug use
  • staying home from work or school
  • increased physical health complaints like fatigue or pain
  • being reckless or taking unnecessary risks (e.g. driving fast or dangerously) slowing down of thoughts and actions.


  • National Help & Information Lines
  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • SANE Helpline 1800 187 263
  • Mensline 1300 789 978
  • Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
  • beyondblue Infoline 1300 224 636


  • - Good information on depression, bipolar, anxiety and post natal depression. Available treatments and where to get help.
  • - Research based group with excellent fact sheets for depression and bipolar. Very good online educational program for bipolar.
  • - Good listing of national and international sites and information about what works to overcome depression.
  • - Contains useful self paced depression recovery program.
  • - Created by people who have suffered from depression. Committed team to help you find local resources. Good chatrooms for anonymous discussions and support.
  • - Contains videos, podcasts and educational programs.
  • - Provides good information and support for those living with post or antenatal depression.
  • - Provides specific information and resources to address anxiety disorders.
  • - Help and information for young people with depression.
  • - Broader coverage of mental health issues beyond depression. Fact sheets and helpline.

Services and Organisations

  • GROW - - 1800 558 268
    A 12-step support group for people with mental health issues.
  • MoodGYM -
    A free online cognitive behaviour therapy program developed by Australian National University.
  • Good Therapy -
    An online resource to help you find a therapist in your area.
  • Association of Relatives & Friends of the Mentally Ill -
    NSW chapter of National organisation. Provides support groups and phone help line. Victoria 9889 3733
  • Carers’ Australia - - (02) 6122 9900
    Full listing of resources and state association.


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