Depression is a serious condition that affects physical and mental health. It is more than just a bad mood, but rather a mixture of intense feelings of moodiness, sadness, and emptiness that lasts for long periods of time (often for months and years). Studies have found that women are twice as likely to develop clinical depression in their lifetime. These increased risks are mainly due to hormonal changes present during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. These statistics are imperfect though, due to the fact that the majority of men suffering from depression are less likely to seek help or discuss their situation.



  • Major depression: This is the most common form of depression, often being called clinical depression, or just simply, depression. The symptoms involve low moods, loss of interest in regular activities, inability to concentrate, fatigue, and mood swings amongst other symptoms (see below). This form of depression occurs most days and lasts for over 2 weeks
  • Melancholia: This is a form of depression, where many, or most of the physical symptoms are present, along with the emotional symptoms. It is usually a biologic or genetic based condition and can have a unipolar or bipolar course
  • Psychotic depression: This is the least common form of depression and occurs when a severe depressive illness includes some form of psychosis. These forms of psychosis can include: hallucinations, delusions, or other breaks in reality. These people often hear voices or become out of touch with reality, having strange and illogical thoughts and ideas. This form of depression is quite similar to schizophrenia, the difference being that the hallucinations from psychotic depression have consistent themes about depression and low moods, whereas schizophrenic hallucinations usually have no connection to the current mood state
  • Prenatal and postnatal depression: occurs during pregnancy (prenatal) and after pregnancy (postnatal) and is caused by hormonal changes. It can occur after miscarriage, still birth, normal or traumatic delivery, or caesarean delivery and does not only occur after the first baby
  • Bipolar disorder: This disorder is often called ‘manic depression’ and is characterized by periods of depression and periods of mania, with normal moods in between. The symptoms of mania are almost the opposite of depression: having a lot of energy, feeling good, less need/desire for sleep, and racing thoughts. Episodes of psychosis are often common with this disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder: is seen as a milder form of bipolar
  • Dysthymic disorder: This disorder is similar to major depression, but the symptoms are less severe, and last longer (at least 2 years)
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): This mood disorder has a seasonal pattern, and is thought to be caused by the variation of light exposure in different seasons. This disorder is characterized by periods of depression and/or mania that begin and end in a particular season, most commonly winter. It is quite rare in Australia and often occurs in places with shorter days and longer periods of darkness
  • Atypical depression: This is often characterized by symptoms that contrast to those of major depression. For example: gain in appetite rather than loss, and hypersomnia rather than insomnia


  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Inability to concentrate or remember things
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
  • Often sick and run down
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pains
  • Loss of appetite
  • Gain in appetite
  • A ‘churning’ or unsettled stomach
  • Anxiety
  • Fluctuation in weight
  • Loss of interest and enjoyment in usual activities
  • Less productivity with work or school
  • Going out less
  • Less contact with friends and family
  • Alcohol or drug dependency
  • Negative thoughts
  • Feelings of worthlessness, and guilt
  • Lack of confidence/become more indecisive
  • Believing people are ‘better off without them’
  • Feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, and disappointment
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of emotion, or ‘emptiness’/’numbness’
  • Becoming extremely tearful
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide



  • Grief (often caused by events such as: the death of a loved one, or divorce or separation etc.)
  • Major life changes such as: moving house, new job, retirement
  • Long term unemployment
  • Loneliness
  • Stress
  • Conflicts in relationships
  • Bullying
  • Low self-esteem or body image
  • Discrimination (gender, religion, age, race, sexuality)
  • Genetics: Depression often runs in families
  • Personality: More sensitive people who worry often, are perfectionists, or have low self-esteem have a higher risk of becoming depressed
  • Medical issues: Caused by the stress of coping with a serious or long term illness, especially if the illness is accompanied by chronic pain
  • Drug and alcohol use/abuse
  • Trauma: Which can be caused by serious accidents, assault, natural disasters, or war for example
  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Hormonal changes: due to puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
  • Post-natal depression: Occurs after the birth of a child
  • Certain medications



A doctor or a mental health professional will perform a mental health assessment to determine a diagnosis. A psychologist may also be called in to aid in a more in-depth assessment.

These mental health assessments are a variety of questions based around the person’s symptoms, their impact on work and relationships, previous episodes, drug or alcohol use, medical conditions, and family history. Family and friends may be asked for their input, and the affected person may be asked to keep a record of their moods, sleep patterns, foods, and any other information they believe will help with a diagnosis.

Doctors may perform blood tests to rule out other diseases that have similar symptoms to depression (such as hypothyroidism).



Psychological treatments or therapies:


  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This involves working with a therapist to identify though and behavioural patterns that are increasing the likelihood of the person becoming depressed, or preventing the person from getting better. It works by helping you think rationally about difficulties, and helping you shift negative or unhelpful thought patterns
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): Focuses on problems in personal relationships and helps you acquire the skills needed to deal with these
  • Counselling
  • Psychotherapy: Where a therapist and patient explore how life events, certain traumas, and stresses have caused depression
  • Behaviour Therapy: Involves encouraging activities that are rewarding or satisfying, instead of trying to change attitudes and beliefs.

Medical treatments:


  • Antidepressants: A doctor or mental health professional should be able to identify the type and severity of the disorder and identify the best form of this drug. These drugs work by repairing the chemical imbalances in the brain. There are 3 types of antidepressants: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Tricyclics (TCAs), and Irreversible Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs). These medicines have certain side effects such as: nausea, headaches, and drowsiness
  • Tranquilisers: Major tranquilisers are used to treat psychotic depression and melancholic depression by controlling psychotic symptoms
  • Mood stabilizers: These are considered ‘anti-manic’ and are used in the treatment of bipolar. They work by reducing the frequency and severity of mood swings


Other therapies:


  • Brain Stimulation Therapies: may be used for severe chronic depression if antidepressants are not effective. In this therapy, the brain is directly stimulate or activated via electricity or magnets, and is thought to be effective because it changes brain chemistry
  • Mindfulness meditation: centres around focusing on the present and clearing the mind
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Exercise: Regular exercise boosts serotonin and endorphins while keeping the body healthy and triggering the growth of new brain cells and connections
  • Nutrition and diet: Eating well and regularly during the day keeps energy levels up and reduced mood swings. Foods with high sugar content boost energy levels for a short period of time but always result in a ‘sugar-crash’ causing moodiness and mood swings
  • Sleep: Ensuring you get enough sleep is essential for combatting depression. Tiredness and fatigue only make depression symptoms worse
  • Stress management: Avoiding triggers and stressful situations makes dealing with depression easier. Removing certain stresses such as overworking or stressful relationships is also beneficial
  • Social support: This works by preventing isolation and loneliness which is a key factor in the cause of depression
  • Yoga: has been found to be highly calming and aids in reducing stress, while also providing other physical health benefits such as overall muscle health and increased blood flow
  • Light therapy: Exposure to therapeutic amounts of light aids with the treatment of insomnia and depression, especially for people who have SAD
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy: aids with muscle tension and aids with relaxation
  • Alcohol and drug avoidance




  • St John’s Wort: This herb works by increasing the levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin. Side effects include: anxiety, dizziness, nausea, high blood pressure, and panic attacks
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: It has been found that people who are more susceptible to depression are lacking in two chemicals (DHA and EPA) which are found in fish oil supplements
  • Saffron: This herb has been found to have had more effect in treating depression patients than placebo supplements
  • SAM-e: Short for S-adenosylmethionine, this supplement works as a synthetic form of the body’s natural mood enhancing chemicals. This supplement shouldn’t be used along with antidepressants
  • Folic acid: Low levels of folic acid have been linked to depression. Folic acid is present in: beans, lentils, cereals, dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, and avocados
  • Zinc: Low levels of zinc are linked to depression and problems with behavioural development. Zinc supplements also help increase the levels of Omega-3 fatty acids present in the body
  • 5-HTP: Also known as 5-hydroxytryptophan, this chemical is produced by the body from the building block protein L-tryptophan. 5-HTP increases serotonin levels, therefore aiding with the treatment of depression. 5-HTP also helps treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia, along with ADHD and Parkinson’s disease. 5-HTP is made from the seeds of an African plant Griffonia simplicifolia and is manufactured into tablets. Natural sources of food high in L-tryptophan include: turkey, chicken, seaweed, milk, sunflower seeds, pumpkins, potatoes, and turnips
  • Vitamin B: Vitamin B is essential for brain health, with vitamin B-6 and B-12 being the most important. They help produce and control the chemicals that influence mood and other brain functions. Vitamin B rich foods include: meat, fish, eggs, and dairy
  • Vitamin D: Studies have found that most people with depression are deficient in vitamin D. This vitamin is obtained from sunlight, as well as cod liver oil, milk, sardines, and eggs
  • Kava kava: This herb is known to aid with anxiety and relaxation, and has been used as a herbal tea for centuries
  • Magnesium: This chemical is known to produce energy and keep the chemicals in the brain stable
  • Ginkgo biloba: Used in ancient Chinese medicine, this herb stimulates circulation and blood flow to the brain, and also improves concentration, focus, and self-motivation
  • Siberian ginseng: Reduces stress, increases mental alertness, reduces fatigue, improves the immune system, and increases productivity
  • Lemon balm: Used to treat insomnia, reduce fatigue and aid with better moods
  • Valerian: Treats anxiety, depression, insomnia, and soothes the nervous system. This herb is popular because it has minimal side effects and is calming without having a sedative effect
  • Arctic root/Rhodiola: This herb is an adaptogen which increases the body’s resistance to physical and emotional stress. It also increases the activity (and prevents the breakdown) of brain chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine
  • Ashwagandha: Being another natural adaptogen, this herb reduces stress, and has been shown to greatly reduce the production levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Chamomile: Chamomile is known for greatly reducing stress and anxiety
  • Curcumin/Turmeric: Curcumin is the main active ingredient in the spice Turmeric and is known for its anti-inflammatory and brain function boosting qualities. Curcumin also boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, aiding in the treatment of depression
  • Nutmeg: Lowers the stress hormone cortisol, and balances hormones/neurotransmitters
  • Skullcap: Aids with stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor concentration, and headaches
  • Vervain: A gentle sedative, this herb helps to treat anxiety, stress, and depression. It also releases dopamine and serotonin
  • Lavender: Boosts mood and alleviates stress and anxiety
  • Passionflower: Used to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia as it is a mild tranquiliser. It also increases levels of Gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain, which lowers brain cell exercise, resulting in calmness and relaxation
  • Rosemary: This herb increases appetite and digestion, increases concentration, aids with memory, and improves the mood
  • Liquorice: Containing Glycyrrhizic acid, this herb helps to prevent anxiety and depression by encouraging the function of the adrenal glands, which control the stress hormone cortisol
  • Nettle: This  plant is another powerful adaptogen




  • Smoky quartz: Improves the adrenal gland function and aids with negative emotions, stress, fear, anxiety, and anger. Also treats insomnia
  • Lepidolite: Used for stress, anxiety, depression, manic-depression, PTSD, anger, trauma, panic attacks, and addictions
  • Tiger’s Eye: Calming, and protecting, this stone stabilizes mood swings, improves mental clarity, lessens fear and anxiety, overcomes lethargy, and improves motivation
  • Carnelian: Stabilizes moods, improves concentration and motivation, reduces negative thoughts and emotions, and has a calming effect
  • Citrine: Reduces negative energies and emotions, increases self-confidence, brings happiness, relieves depression, anxiety, self-doubt, anger, and mood swings, prevents self-destructive tendencies, and helps overcome trauma and abuse
  • Lapis Lazuli: Brings positive energies, strengthens and organizes the mind, quietens a restless mind, increases concentration, aids with overcoming trauma, abuse, and grief, and brings hope. Also aids with sleep disorders
  • Kunzite: This stone is said to heal ‘broken hearts’. It decreases stress and anxiety, and prevents negative energies, thoughts, and emotions. It also stabilizes hormones
  • Lithium quartz: This stone is balancing, calming, and a natural antidepressant. It relieves stress, anxiety, depression, tension, and brings relaxation and peace. It is also used to heal repressed grief and anger, and aids with insomnia
  • Botswana agate: Called the ‘transition stone’ it aids with transitions of any kind. It is used to treat stress, anxiety, depression, and grief, and is also powerful at overcoming addictions and other self-destructive patterns/tendencies
  • Chrysoprase: Prevents negative energies and thoughts, instead turning attention towards positive events. Helps overcome compulsive or impulsive attitudes and behaviours, balances the hormones, treats insomnia, and aids with mental fatigue
  • Eliat stone: Heals pain caused by fear, stress, loss, grief, and abandonment. Used to treat stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Jet: Removes negative energies, emotions, and thoughts, and has a calming energy, making it useful in the treatment of stress, anxiety, grief, bipolar, and clinical and manic-depression
  • Peridot: Reduces stress (especially in relationships), anger, anxiety, and depression
  • Spinel: Calms, reduces stress, relieves depression and anxiety, and increases energy