Depression is a change in mood, behaviour and feelings that can be mild, moderate or severe. Symptoms include:
If your depression is more severe, you may also have thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you have these thoughts, you should get help urgently from your doctor or one of the helplines listed on this page. There are people who can help you get through. Read more about severe depression.
Sometimes depression appears out of the blue, while at other times something seems to trigger it. The exact cause of depression is unknown but many factors may play a role in depression. For example, you are more likely to experience depression if you:
If you are unsure whether you have depression, there are online self-tests you can do, including:
If you have some, but not necessarily all, the symptoms mentioned above, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. They will ask you questions about your thoughts, feelings and behaviour, including sleeping and eating patterns, as well as how long you have been feeling this way. They will also ask if you have had any previous episodes of depression and may ask about what is happening in your life at the moment. They may also do a physical examination and blood tests to rule out other causes for your depression.
Your doctor will be assessing not only if you have depression, but what type of depression and whether you have mild, moderate or severe symptoms, as this will affect what treatment they recommend.
There are several types of depression. You can still be depressed even if you don't meet all the criteria for one of these types. They include:
Major depressive disorder – severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat and enjoy life. Persistent depressive disorder – a depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. Psychotic depression – severe depression plus some form of psychosis.Postpartum depression – a type of depression that some women experience after giving birth. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight.Bipolar disorder – different from depression, but includes episodes of extreme low moods well as extreme high moods (mania).
Depression can usually be effectively treated with a combination of psychological therapy, lifestyle changes and antidepressant medication. For some people, alternative approaches have been useful, such as mindfulness meditation, St John's wort and online tools and courses. Find out more about treatment for depression.
Read more about Living well with depression.
If you would like to talk to someone, try one of the following free helplines as a first step, or contact your doctor.
See more support options.
The following links provide further information about depression. Be aware that websites from other countries may have information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.
depression.org.nz information, tests, tools, videos and moreDepression Mental Health Foundation, NZ The lowdown – for young people NZDepression explained Black Dog Institute, AustraliaDepression Your Health in Mind, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2017Resources for women with depression Through Blue, NZWorkplace wellbeing Mental Health Foundation, NZOther peoples stories depression.org.nzPersonal stories Mental Health Foundation
See more resources about depression and how to manage it.