Definitive Guide


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What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that negatively affects the way you think and feel, and can impact daily activities like eating, sleeping, and interacting with others. Depression is one of the most common mental health problems and affects  up to 10% of people in England during their lifetime. Depression can be mild, moderate, or severe, and has many causes including: 

  • significant life events like divorce, bereavement, or losing your job
  • having a baby. This causes hormonal, physical, and lifestyle changes that can lead to post-natal depression.
  • loneliness, social isolation, and lack of support
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • using recreational drugs
  • severe or chronic illness 
  • physical causes like vitamin deficiency, conditions affecting the brain, or thyroid problems
  • often there is no identifiable trigger for depression

Some people are more likely to suffer from depression than others. Some risk factors for depression include: 

  • family history. Having a close family member with depression increases the risk of developing it yourself. This could be genetic or may be due to upbringing and learned behaviour in childhood. 
  • a history of childhood trauma or abuse.
  • brain chemistry. An imbalance of certain brain chemicals may contribute to depression.
  • personality. People with low self-esteem, are naturally pessimistic, or struggle to cope with stress are more likely to suffer from depression
  • environmental factors like long-term poverty, abuse, violence, or neglect
  • having a chronic health condition such as diabetes, cancer, or asthma 

How do you know if you have depression?

It’s normal to feel sad, low in mood, or fed-up at times, but depression is not the same as this. Depression is a medical condition that needs professional treatment, and people with depression can’t just “snap out of it” or “pull themselves together”. Depression is not a sign of weakness or failure, and can happen to anyone. Diagnosis of depression by a doctor or mental health professional is based on your symptoms. 

Symptoms of depression include:

  • persistant feelings of sadness and low mood
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • feelings of frustration, or anger
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness and lack of energy) 
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
  • sleeping too much, problems getting to sleep or staying asleep, or waking up very early in the morning
  • eating more or less than usual 
  • unplanned weight loss or weight gain 
  • slowed movements or speech
  • physical symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, and digestive problems that do not go away with treatment
  • feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
  • difficulty making decisions
  • thinking about death
  • thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Not everyone with depression has all of the above symptoms. You may have many of the symptoms of depression, or only a few. If you have been having symptoms of depression every day for more than 2 weeks, if your symptoms are affecting your relationships, work, or family life make an appointment with your GP immediately. If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call 999, 111 or your local crisis team which can be found here (if you live in England).

Anxiety, stress, and depression

Anxiety, stress, and depression are terms that are often used interchangeably and although the conditions are often linked, they are not the same.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry, or fear. It’s normal to feel anxious or worried at certain times, like before a job interview or important exam, but some people feel anxious almost constantly where there is no specific cause.  Generalised anxiety disorder is a mental health condition where people feel general, constant anxiety that impacts their day-to-day lives. 

Stress is a physical and emotional response to an external situation. Some stress in life is normal, but chronic (long-lasting) stress that isn’t dealt with effectively can lead to anxiety disorder and depression. 

How to get help for depression

Depression is a serious mental health condition that, if left untreated, can have far-reaching consequences for your relationships, career, and physical health. If you have symptoms of depression, it’s important to get help early to prevent the condition from getting worse and causing long-term health problems. 

The first step in getting help with depression is to make an appointment with your GP. 

Your GP will ask about your symptoms, general health, and lifestyle. They may perform a physical examination and run some tests to see if your symptoms have a physical cause. If you are diagnosed with depression, your GP can recommend some treatments, or refer you to a specialist for further help. 

Treatments for depression

There are various treatments for depression, and the type of treatment you require depends on whether your depression is mild, moderate, or severe

If you are diagnosed with mild depression, your GP may advise you to try some coping strategies and see if your symptoms improve and arrange another appointment in 2 weeks to check your progress. Some self-help tips include:  

  • taking regular exercise
  • sticking to a daily routine
  • talking to friends, a counsellor, or a self-help group
  • reading self-help books
  • online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBD) 
  • getting enough sleep
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • avoiding recreational drugs and alcohol
  • practising self-care, like taking a shower, getting dressed, and eating regular meals
  • keeping a journal 
  • spending time in nature

For mild to moderate depression, talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBD) or counselling may be helpful. Your GP can refer you for therapy, or you can refer yourself through the NHS psychological therapies service ( IAPT). 

For moderate to severe depression the following treatment options are recommended: 

  • medications like antidepressants
  • talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and counselling
  • combination therapies combine antidepressants and talking therapies. Combination therapies are often more effective than one treatment alone. 
  • For severe depression, you may be referred to mental health teams. These are teams of specialists including psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses, and occupational therapists. They use a combination of specialist talking therapies and medications to treat depression. 


Can a pharmacist help with depression?

Your local pharmacist can help you with diagnosing early signs of anxiety and depression, however if your symptoms are severe we recommend booking a GP appointment to discuss them with your doctor. Your GP will assess your symptoms and available treatments as well as refer your further to the suitable specialist if they believe you need one.

Online GP appointments for depression

If you are worried about depression and would like to talk to a doctor about self-help and treatment options, make an online GP appointment with one of our NHS-trained doctors today. 

Making an appointment with Medicspot is quick and easy online. Simply choose a time that is convenient for you and have your appointment by video link from your phone wherever you are.


If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call 999, 111 or your local crisis team which can be found here (if you live in England)


Mental The most common mental health problems: Statistics. 2022 (Accessed August 30th 2022) 

American Psychiatric Association: What Is Depression?  October 2020(Accessed August 30th 2022)  

NIH. National Institute of Mental Health: Depression Overview July 2022 (Accessed August 30th 2022)

Mind UK: Depression March 2019 (Accessed August 30th 2022)

NHS: Causes. Clinical depression December 10th 2019 (Accessed August 30th 2022)

NHS: Overview. Generalised anxiety disorder in adults December 19th 2018  (Accessed August 30th 2022)

PubMed: The Nature of Clinical Depression: Symptoms, Syndromes, and Behavior Analysis 2008 (Accessed August 30th 2022)

WebMD: Untreated Depression November 13th 2021  (Accessed August 30th 2022)

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