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Shadows Within: Understanding Depression

Updated: Apr 5

Depression is a complex and pervasive mental health condition that affects a significant number of Australians. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that a little over 1 in ten people (10.4%) in Australia had experienced depression or feelings of depression in 2017-18, an increase from 8.9% in 2014-15. The findings also showed that females had depression or feelings of depression at a higher rate than males (11.6% vs 9.1%, respectively)*.   Distinguishing between sadness and depression is crucial, as depression extends beyond temporary feelings of unhappiness. 


Sadness vs. Depression

Sadness is a natural emotion, a response to life's challenges and setbacks. It is a temporary state that typically resolves as circumstances improve. On the other hand, depression is a persistent and pervasive mood disorder that significantly impacts a person's thoughts, emotions, and daily functioning. Unlike sadness, depression often lacks a clear external cause and can linger for extended periods. 


What Depression Feels Like

Depression can manifest in various ways, impacting individuals both physically and emotionally. Feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, and a pervasive sense of emptiness are common. Daily activities that once brought joy become arduous tasks, and the simplest decisions can feel overwhelming. Sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, and a loss of interest in activities may also accompany depression. 


Individuals experiencing depression often describe it as an invisible weight, a constant heaviness that shadows their every move. It's like being trapped in a fog, where clarity and purpose seem elusive. Some may articulate it as a deep ache, an emptiness that echoes within, even in the presence of others. The struggle to convey the experience of depression underscores the complexity of this mental health challenge. 


Types and Forms of Depression

Depression is not a one-size-fits-all condition; it presents in various forms. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the most common, characterised by persistent low mood and a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) involves chronic but less severe symptoms lasting for at least two years. Bipolar Disorder, Postpartum Depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder are other forms that encompass different patterns of mood fluctuations. 


Who is Affected

Depression does not discriminate; it affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. Typically, anxiety and depression occur together, with around 1.5 million Australians (6.1%) having both an anxiety-related condition and depression or feelings of depression in 2017-18 (an increase from 2014-15, 1.1 million people or 5.0%)*. In New South Wales. one in eight (12.3%) had an anxiety-related condition. This was more common among females (14.1%) than males (10.6%)*.  While anyone can be susceptible, certain factors such as genetics, family history, trauma, chronic illness, and high levels of stress may increase the risk. 

Common Signs of Depression  

Depression can manifest in various ways, and individuals may experience a combination of symptoms. It's important to note that everyone's experience with depression is unique, and not everyone will exhibit the same signs. Common signs of depression include: 


  • Persistent Sadness or Low Mood that lasts most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. 

  • Loss of Interest or Pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable, including hobbies, socializing, or personal pursuits. 

  • Changes in Sleep Patterns like Insomnia or hypersomnia, difficulty sleeping, or oversleeping 

  • Changes in Appetite or Weight loss or gain  

  • Persistent feelings of Fatigue and Low Energy Levels and a general sense of lethargy, even after adequate rest. 

  • Difficulty Concentrating: Trouble focusing, making decisions, or experiencing memory issues. 

  • Feelings of Hopelessness about the future or Feelings of Worthlessness, and Excessive Guilt. 

  • Heightened Irritability or Agitation or Restlessness not typical for the individual. 

  • Unexplained Physical Symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, or chronic pain that don't respond to medical treatment. 

  • Withdrawal from Social Activities like social interactions, isolation from friends and family, or a reluctance to engage in previously enjoyed activities. 

  • Suicidal Thoughts in severe cases 


Where to Find Help and Support 

Health professionals, including general practitioners, psychologists, and psychiatrists, play a crucial role in diagnosing depression. 

Recognising the signs of depression and seeking support is a courageous step towards recovery. General practitioners can initiate the diagnostic process, and mental health professionals provide therapeutic interventions. Non-profit organizations, helplines, and community resources offer additional support. It is essential to approach depression with empathy, reduce stigma, and work collectively towards building a society that prioritises mental health and well-being. 


Depression is a formidable adversary, but with awareness, understanding, and a network of support, individuals can navigate the shadows towards healing. Seeking help is a sign of strength, and together, as a community, we can foster an environment that prioritises mental well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out—help is available. 

In the next couple of weeks, we will be featuring different types of depression.


If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately through the following:  

24 hours, 7 days Crisis Support Services: 

Lifeline: 13 11 14  

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467  

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978 

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800 

If you feel like you have depression or feelings of depression, contact your GP for a referral or message us at Source:


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