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. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) divides depression into the following categories:
For a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, you will have experienced five or more of the following symptoms during the same 2-week period and this is a change from your previous functioning. At least one of your symptoms is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure:
In addition, these symptoms:
There are 3 levels of severity of major depression defined in the DSM-5:
Mild depression: Few, if any, symptoms in excess of the 5 required to make the diagnosis, and symptoms result in only minor functional impairment.Moderate depression: Symptoms or functional impairment are between mild and severe.Severe depression: Most symptoms, and the symptoms markedly interfere with functioning. Can occur with or without psychotic symptoms. Read more about severe depression.
For this diagnosis, you meet the above criteria for a major depressive disorder, or you have 3 or 4 of the following dysthymic symptoms including depressed mood, for 2 years or more. Your impairment compared with major depressive disorder may be less severe. Dysthymic symptoms are as follows:
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 FoundationHow dogs can help with mental health – mind boosting benefits of dog ownership UK, 2018F*ck depression Download a free e-book of scientifically proven ways to get through thingsThe Big Feels Club Articles and podcasts about life + feelingsSelf-help for depression getselfhelp.co.uk
See more resources about depression and how to manage it.