Factsheet: Depression

This factsheet explains what depression is, how it can make you feel, what causes it and the different support options available to you in Edinburgh.

Download a PDF copy here – Edspace depression factsheet

What is depression?
Types of depression
Causes of depression
Related information

What is depression?

Depression is a common condition which affects your mood. Symptoms will be different for every person, however, two factors are taken into consideration when diagnosing depression:

  • if the feelings and symptoms are persistent
  • if the symptoms interfere in your life in a negative way. In severe cases, depression can make everyday tasks like getting dressed or doing the shopping feel impossible


Depression can have physical and emotional effects. Some of these symptoms include:

  • feeling unhappy, miserable and lonely a lot of the time
  • feeling negative or hopeless about your life and the future
  • feeling guilty, bad or inadequate
  • feeling agitated, anxious, irritable or moody
  • no longer enjoying the things that you use to like doing
  • loss of sex drive
  • weight loss or weight gain
  • difficulty getting to sleep and/or waking early
  • poor concentration and loss of energy or motivation
  • not looking after your personal appearance
  • frequent minor health problems eg headaches, back pain or stomach aches
  • not liking yourself
  • suicidal thoughts
  • self-harming

If you are experiencing these symptoms for more than two weeks, you should visit your GP or contact one of the organisations listed at the end of this factsheet.

Types of depression

There are various types of depression. Some types of depression include:

Clinical depression –
this is not a formal diagnosis but simply means that an individual is depressed.

Depressive episode –
more formal way of saying you are experiencing depression. Doctors may give this as a diagnosis for depression and this diagnosis may also be partnered with the severity in which you are experiencing depression – mild, moderate or severe).

Recurrent depressive disorder –
this describes someone who has experienced depressive episodes at least two times.

Reactive depression –
when your symptoms of depression are due to stressful life events, such as exams, financial burden, relationship breakdowns or work-related stress.

Dysthymia –
which is a type of mood disorder with symptoms including recurring low mood for over two years.

Perinatal (postnatal or prenatal/antenatal) depression –
this can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, before or after they have become a parent.

Bipolar disorder –
once known as ‘manic depression’ where you experience extreme ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. This is not the same as depression. However, those who have bipolar will at times experience depression.

Psychotic depression –
a severe episode of depression causing you to experience hallucinations or delusions.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) –
this occurs because of the lack of light in the winter.

Causes of depression

Depression can be caused by a variety of reasons. Some examples include:

  • a history of mental health difficulties in your family
  • living with a long-term or life-threatening condition
  • experiencing a traumatic or stressful event in your life such as divorce, losing job, financial issues, bereavement or abuse
  • substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs
  • being isolated
  • giving birth


Most people can and do recover from depression. It is a treatable condition and there are many options to help you to recover. There are a variety of ways of treating depression. Treatment which helps one person won’t necessarily help another person.

Visit your GP
For most people, the first step is to approach your GP for help. Your GP might prescribe medication initially or other treatment such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), exercise or self-help books on prescription.

Talking therapies
Cognitive behaviour therapy is a type of talking therapy, or psychotherapy, carried out by a specially trained therapist. CBT is based on the idea that negative thinking results in negative reactions.

Edinburgh GPs can now refer people to guided self-help, which is a short-term therapy for people with mild to moderate stress, anxiety, depression or low mood.

The service is run by Health in Mind. Trained guided self-help workers can introduce you to and supply you with self-help materials which you can work through on your own. These materials are designed to help you understand and address your problems independently. You can receive this support in person, over the phone or online.

If you have particularly severe depression, your GP may refer you to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist may prescribe a different medication or refer you for other types of talking therapy such as counselling or psychotherapy.

There are lots of different types of medication to help treat depression. Some medications will also have other effects, commonly referred to as side-effects.

Always ask your doctor for advice and read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine.

Self-help and lifestyle

Self-help support groups are a good place to find people you can talk to. Other participants may understand how you feel because they have probably had similar feelings. Many people find attending a group helps them feel less alone

Exercise has been proven to help people with depression feel better. If you feel sluggish and tired, you can start by doing something small like going for a short walk. Attending a local class or finding someone to exercise with could help motivate you.

Relaxation training is a feature of some types of psychotherapy. Various types of relaxation therapy are available. Other options are yoga, Tai Chi or other low level/gentle exercise.

Having a balance of activities can help combat low mood. These activities fall into three groups –

  • Pleasurable
    • This could include seeing friends, learning new skills, or gardening
  • Routine
    • This could include eating a healthy meal, doing the dishes and having a regular bedtime
  • Necessary
    • This could include paying bills, food shopping and personal care

Mindfulness is a practice where you take notice of the present moment in the efforts to be more self-aware and calmer. Have a look at the NHS page on mindfulness – www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/

There is a range of mental health apps you can download to help manage your symptoms. Have a look at the NHS Apps Library for a list of apps available – www.nhs.uk/apps-library/category/mental-health

Related information

This section highlights several services and resources which are designed to support people with depression. For more information on what is available in Edinburgh, please go to www.edspace.org.uk.

Free and Low Cost Counselling Booklet

Self-help – on this page you will find up to date information about a range of self-help resources, materials and services which are easily accessible and free of charge.

Health in Mind’s Guided Self-help is a short term therapy for adults experiencing mild to moderate distress, such as anxiety, depression and/or stress.

Bipolar Scotland provides information and support to people affected by bipolar disorder.

Health in Mind’s Depression and Anxiety Support Group is a weekly, peer-led drop-in group for adults affected by depression, low mood, stress or anxiety.

Healthy Active Minds is a physical activity referral project for inactive adults aged 18 years and over with mild to moderate depression, stress, anxiety or low mood.

Living Life to the Full is a website with online courses covering low mood, stress and resiliency.

Moodjuice is a website designed to help you think about emotional problems and work towards solving them.


Breathing Space – 0800 83 85 87
Breathing Space is the free, confidential and anonymous phone line and website for people in Scotland who are feeling low or depressed. The phone line service is open 24 hours at weekends, 6.00 pm Friday to 6.00 am Monday) and 6.00 pm to 2.00 am on weekdays (Monday to Thursday).

SANELINE – 0845 767 8000
A telephone helpline offering practical information, crisis care and emotional support to anybody affected by mental health difficulties.
1.00 pm to 11.00 pm every day

Samaritans – 116 123
Samaritans provides confidential emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide. You don’t have to be suicidal to call. Samaritans are here for you if you’re worried about something, feel upset or confused, or you just want to talk to someone.

Hopeline UK – 0800 068 4141
Support for anyone aged under 35 years old and experiencing thoughts of suicide or anyone concerned that a young person may be experiencing thoughts of suicide.

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