Depression: definition

Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration.

It can be long lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing a person’s ability to function at work or school, or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide. When mild, depression can be treated without medicines but, when moderate or severe, people may need medication and professional talking treatments.

Non-specialists can reliably diagnose and treat depression as part of primary health care. Specialist care is needed for a small proportion of people with complicated depression or those who do not respond to first-line treatments.

Depression often starts at a young age. It affects women more often than men, and unemployed people are also at high risk.