Adult Carers

I Feel Depressed

Everyone has spells of feeling down, but depression is more than just spending a few days feeling sad or unhappy. Depression is when you feel persistently sad and down for weeks or months at a time.

Depression is a complex condition, and its cause is also complex. For some people, difficult life events and experiences might cause depression. For others, it could be relationship problems, bereavement, sleep problems, stress at work, bullying, chronic illness or pain.

In some cases, it’s possible to become depressed without there being an obvious reason. There may also be a genetic aspect to depression. If you have a parent or close relative who has experienced depression, there could be more of a chance that you’ll experience depression yourself.


Depression can affect people in many different ways – and can result in changes to your mind, body and behaviour. The Mental Health Foundation of Scotland describes the symptoms of depression as feeling:

  • Sad, upset or tearful
  • Guilty or worthless
  • Restless or irritable
  • Empty and numb
  • Lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Unable to enjoy things that usually bring you pleasure
  • Helpless or hopeless
  • Anxious or worried
  • Suicidal or wanting to hurt yourself.

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Moving or speaking more slowly
  • Sleep problems: finding it hard to get to sleep or waking up very early
  • Changes in your weight or appetite
  • Constipation
  • No sex drive and/or sexual problems
  • Unexplained aches and pains.

Behavioural changes might involve:

  • Avoiding other people, even your close friends
  • Finding it hard to function at work, college or school
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions or think clearly
  • Being unable to concentrate or remember things.

Some people may experience psychosis during a severe episode of depression. This means you may see or hear things that aren’t there or believe things that aren’t true.

Whatever the cause, if negative feelings don’t go away, are too much for you to cope with, or are stopping you from carrying on with your normal life, you may need to make some changes and get some extra support.

Action you can take right now

Severe depression is a serious illness that can affect every aspect of your life. If you are feeling distressed, in despair, or suicidal, talk to your GP straight away. If you prefer to talk to someone anonymously, you could phone the Samaritans on 116 123 (24 hours, 7 days a week), or Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 (Mon – Thurs 6pm-2am, or Friday 6pm to Monday 6am) for confidential, non-judgmental emotional support. Remember that there are some very good treatments for depression. Don’t suffer in silence.

If you feel that your depression is mild or moderate, there are some good self-help techniques you could try at home. Mindfulness-based cognitive approaches and cognitive behavioural therapy have been shown through research to be effective, and the podcasts and video links below provide some further information about these.

NHS Inform offers the following suggestions for dealing with depression:

  • Stay in touch – Don’t withdraw from life. Socialising can improve your mood, and keeping in touch with family and friends will give you someone to talk to when you feel low
  • Be more active – Exercise can help lift your mood. Any type of exercise is useful. Try going out for a walk. (You could invite a friend, too.) Or do some gentle exercise in your own home. There are lots of great videos online for Pilates, yoga and qigong.
  • Face your fears – Don’t avoid things you find difficult. This can result in losing confidence. By contrast, facing up to situations will help make them easier and give you a sense of achievement.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol – Alcohol can make you feel more depressed.
  • Eat a healthy diet – Depression can cause some people to lose weight, and others to put weight on. If you need ideas for healthy cooking on a budget, try the BBC Good Food website.
  • Keep to a routine – Try to get up and go to bed at your normal time and stick to a routine in relation to meals.

More Information



  • Depression, NHS Inform – Explains what depression is, how to know if you may have it, when to seek help, and what types of treatments may be helpful.
  • Depression, Mind – Provides information about depression, its symptoms and causes, and some great tips for caring for yourself.
  • Depression self-help guide, NHS Inform – This self-help guide is intended for people with mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression. It will help you to determine if you have depression and to understand more about depression, and it offers a cognitive behavioural approach to overcoming depression.
  • How to be happier, NHS – Six tips to help you feel happier, more in control and more able to cope with life’s ups and downs



  • Low mood and depression, NHS Moodzone – Discusses low mood and depression and how to help yourself cope (10.5 minutes)
  • Unhelpful thinking, NHS Moodzone – Tips for using a mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural approach to replace negative thoughts with more positive thinking (7.5 minutes)
  • Just One Thing: Read, Michael Moseley – Discusses the evidence that simply reading a story (fiction) for half an hour a day can bring big benefits to your body and brain – from reducing stress and helping to stave off depression, to strengthening your social skills and even helping you live longer! (14 minutes)
  • Just One Thing: Meditate, Michael Moseley – Discusses how just a short mindful meditation a day can enhance your mood, your immune system and your brain (15 minutes).
  • Guided meditation, University of Oxford – A short, guided meditation (3 minutes)



Where to get more help

People with depression find it difficult to imagine that anything can help them – but the sooner you seek help, the sooner you will start to feel better.  If you’ve been feeling low or depressed for more than a couple of weeks, see your GP.

You could also speak to someone anonymously by phoning a free helpline:

  • Breathing Space– 0800 83 85 87 (Mon to Fri 6pm to 2am, 24 hours at the weekend)

If you’re feeling distressed, in a state of despair or suicidal out with these hours, contact

  • NHS 24 – 111
  • Samaritans– 116 123 (24 hours, 7 days a week)


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