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Guides: Mental Health

Last Updated: Monday March 13 2006 16:00 GMT

Depression and manic depression

Boy struggling with stress
Q: What is depression?

A: Depression is different from feeling a bit sad or down for a day or two, which is how everyone feels from time to time.

When a person has depression they feel very sad or down. Often the feelings don't go away by themselves and sometimes they can get worse.

A person may be depressed because they are very worried or stressed about something, or the feelings might just come out of the blue.

This affects people by lowering their mood and can cause sleep, appetite and self-esteem problems.

It can prevent someone from doing everyday things and may affect their physical health.

Depression can make you feel:

  • hopeless
  • worthless
  • unmotivated
  • exhausted

Q: What is manic depression?

A: This is sometimes called "bipolar disorder" because it causes mood swings from deep depression to extreme "highs".

Manic depression can cause someone to:

  • have too much energy - called hyperactivity
  • have scattered thoughts
  • have trouble concentrating
  • be very irritable
  • be reckless
  • lose their inhibitions

Q: What should I do if I think I have depression?

It is best to talk to your parents and friends first if you can, or you can talk to a teacher at school, your family doctor, or another adult you can trust.

If the feelings do not go away you should be offered more help if you need it.

You can receive treatment for depression from your family doctor, or a school nurse, but if you need further treatment you can see someone (usually at a clinic or a hospital) who is specially trained to help people of your age with depression.

Q: What should happen when I first see a healthcare professional?

When you first see someone about your feelings, they will want to know about:

  • how you feel
  • any other illnesses you may have
  • life at home and at school
  • how you get along with your parents, other members of your family, friends and people at school

They should ask you and your family if you have problems with drugs or alcohol, if you are being bullied or if you are harming yourself.

They should also give you good information about depression and the treatments and care that you should be offered.

Q: What treatments are best for me?

A: If you have mild depression you should be offered the chance to talk to someone about your feelings and problems. This is called psychological treatment or therapy (sometimes called "counselling")

If the therapy works it should last for two to three months. People with mild depression shouldn't be offered medicine straight away.

If you have a more severe type of depression then there are other types of therapy that should be offered. You may be offered medicine but this should only be in addition to psychological therapy.

You can usually choose what treatments you get. But this does depend on your age and whether or not you fully understand all the information that your healthcare professional should give you about the treatments.

Is there anything I can do to help myself?

There are things that you can do for yourself which a doctor, nurse or therapist may help you with. These include:

  • Regular exercise

    You can do this on you own or your healthcare professional may make suggestions

  • Having a balanced diet

    Your healthcare professional should talk to you about what foods are good for you and how to make sure you are getting the right variety in your diet.

  • Coping with sleep problems and anxious feelings

    If you are anxious and worried or you are having trouble sleeping, tell your healthcare professional so that they can help you with this.

Some of the text on this page comes from a leaflet entitled Understanding Depression: a Guide for Young People aged 11-18, which was written by YoungMinds children's mental health charity.

Please visit to download the leaflet or email to request a copy.

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