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At some point or another everyone feels down after a stressful or upsetting situation. This is perfectly normal. But if your mood doesn’t lift and it persists for an extended period of time, then it’s a good idea to get some help as you may have depression.

Depression is a condition where a person suffers from a continual low mood, sadness and/or physical characteristics like disturbed sleep, low energy or anxiety. Key signs that you may have depression are constantly feeling down or hopeless and having little interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy.

Depression affects approximately one in four women and one in ten men. The earlier depression is diagnosed and treated, the greater the chance of recovery. People with depression usually make a full recovery.

The exact cause of depression is unknown but it has been shown that there is a genetic link to this condition. Relatives are shown to have an increased risk of developing depression, with the risk increasing three fold if a parent, sister or brother has the condition.

Other suspected causes include:
•    major stressful life events, such as divorce, job-loss or childhood abuse
•    altered levels of thyroid hormones or cortisol
•    altered brain function.

Depression can affect people of all ages. The most common age of onset is during the mid-20s and it is also more common in people who are aged between 25 and 45 years old.

Different people experience different combinations of symptoms. Not everybody will suffer from low mood or sadness and in severe cases, symptoms of psychosis may also be present.

Possible signs that you may have depression could include:
•    irritability or restlessness, feeling tired all the time, or general loss of energy
•    feelings of emptiness or loneliness
•    no longer being interested in your favourite activities
•    sleep problems – too much, or too little
•    weight loss or gain
•    low self-esteem
•    problems with concentration
•    reduced sex drive
•    thinking about death a lot not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, or wanting to go to bed during the day
•    feelings of great sadness and uncontrolled crying – this is more common in women.

People who suffer from depression may also find that they worry about everything more than usual - this is known as anxiety. Anxiety can cause physical symptoms like pain, a pounding heart or stomach cramps. Feelings of anxiousness may come and go but it is important to seek help immediately.  

There are many different forms of treatment for depression, including antidepressant, antipsychotic, mood stabilising and anxiety medications, psychosocial therapy and complementary therapy. Antidepressant medication, with or without counselling, is the most common form of treatment for depression. Remember that treatment must not stop without the advice of a health care professional.  

Recovery from depression varies from patient to patient. Most patients make a complete recovery, while some may never make a full recovery. Community pharmacists can help patients understand their treatment and educate them about what to expect from their treatment plan – particularly what results to expect and when to expect them. Patients taking antidepressant medication for the first time may feel anxious about taking their medicine. However, if medication is taken as instructed by a community pharmacist, and the patient tries to learn more about the treatment plan, recovery is likely to be quicker.