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What is Depression?

Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn't stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal.

What causes depression?

There are several ideas about what causes depression. It can vary a lot between different people, and for some people a combination of different factors may cause their depression. Some find that they become depressed without any obvious reason.

In this section you can find information on the following possible causes of depression:

  • childhood experiences

  • life events

  • other mental health problems

  • physical health problems

  • genetic inheritance

  • medication, recreational drugs and alcohol

  • sleep, diet and exercise

There is good evidence to show that going through difficult experiences in your childhood can make you vulnerable to experiencing depression later in life. This could be:

  • physical, sexual or emotional abuse

  • neglect

  • the loss of someone close to you

  • traumatic events

  • an unstable family situation.

Research shows that going through lots of smaller challenging experiences can have a bigger impact on your vulnerability to depression than experiencing one major traumatic event.

In many cases, you might find your depression has been triggered by an unwelcome, stressful or traumatic event. This could be:

  • losing your job or unemployment

  • the end of a relationship

  • bereavement

  • major life changes, like changing job, moving house or getting married

  • being physically or sexually assaulted

  • being bullied or abused, including experiencing racism.

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