• Ceri Kerrin

Understanding Depression: A guide to what it is and when to seek help.



Everyone feels down from time to time. However, if this feeling persists for a prolonged period of time, of affects your day to day functioning, you may be suffering from depression.


According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group depression affects approximately 4,5million or approximately 10% of South Africans. These statistics are probably not an accurate reflection of the severity of the problem in South Africa, as stigma around mental illness often stops people from seeking help for their difficulties.


Symptoms of Depression


Depression affects different people in different ways including:


Psychological Symptoms

  • low mood or sadness

  • feelings of hopeless or helpless

  • low self-esteem

  • lack of confidence in ones own ability

  • tearfulness

  • feelings of guilt

  • irritability and intolerance

  • a decreased interest in things that once brought you pleasure

  • low motivation levels

  • difficulty making decisions

  • decreased productivity

  • limited enjoyment out of life

  • suicidal thoughts

  • thoughts about self-harm

Physical Symptoms

  • moving slower than usual

  • speaking slower than usual

  • increased or decreased appetite

  • changes in weight

  • bowel problems

  • unexplained aches and pains

  • lack of energy

  • changes in sex drive

  • changes in menstrual cycle

  • difficulty sleeping

  • feeling unrested when waking up

  • feeling run down

  • difficulty concentrating

Social Symptoms

  • withdrawal from social activities (friend and family)

  • decreased performance at work

  • avoiding friends and family

  • inability to keep commitments

  • neglecting hobbies / interests

  • increased conflict in interpersonal relationships

When to seek help!


Although it is normal to feel down from time to time. Depression is a serious illness and if untreated can have a serious impact. It is not something that can be avoided, and will not go away if it is ignored. Even though it may be intimidating to seek professional help. If you have...

  • been feeling down or not yourself for two or more weeks

  • if it is interfering with your ability to function

  • if it is causing you to contemplate or plan to commit suicide

  • if you are contemplating or engaging in self harm.

then its time to seek help


Where to find help!


Depression often creates the feeling that you are alone, and that no one can help you. Please reach out, help is available. If this is you or someone you love please contact


  • A mental health care specialist such as a psychologist or psychiatrist

  • Your family doctor

  • The employment assistance program (EAP) at your office

  • Your local hospital or community clinic


If you are in a crisis and are needing help now you can contact the resources listed here


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