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The University of Southampton
Enabling ServicesPart of Student Services

Depression

Depression describes being low in mood for an extended period. Mood can be seen as a continuum, with happy at one end and depressed at the other. Most people fluctuate along this continuum through their lives and this is normal. When low mood persists and is not improved by activities that would normally be pleasurable, it may become depression.

It is common to have suicidal thoughts when you are depressed. If you are feeling suicidal, then you should see a doctor as a matter of urgency. Your GP is the best option in this case. Please visit our page on suicidal thoughts, where there is more specific advice about immediate options.

We all experience variations in our mood, including times when we may feel sad, fed up or hopeless. This is part of life, and we expect these times to pass as we respond to changing situations, causing our mood to lift.

Depression is different. When the feelings, thoughts and ways of behaving that are associated with depression continue for a long period, a diagnosis of depression may be made by a doctor. If you have been experiencing low mood for at least two weeks, it is likely to be seen as depression.

Physical symptoms of depression may include:

  • Feeling worse at a particular time each day, usually in the morning
  • Feeling tired and lacking in energy most of the time
  • Frequent crying
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling constantly restless and agitated
  • Stomach problems, including constipation or diarrhoea
  • Changes in appetite – eating noticeably more or less than usual
  • Changes in your sleeping habit – difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes to your menstrual cycle
  • Sexual arousal difficulties

Behavioural symptoms common in depression include:

  • Crying spells
  • Anger outbursts
  • Substance use / abuse
  • Self-harm (e.g. cutting)
  • Suicide attempts
  • Withdrawing from activities, even those you might usually like
  • Avoiding other people, even close friends
  • Finding it hard to function at university

Psychological symptoms of depression may include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Thoughts about feeling useless or a failure
  • Thoughts that nothing is going to get better
  • Feeling sad much of the time
  • Feeling irritable, impatient and intolerant of others
  • Feeling anxious much of the time
  • Finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions
  • Memory difficulties
  • Lack of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Negative interpretation of ordinary things, such as a friend not returning your call
  • Being preoccupied with negative thoughts
  • Thoughts of death
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy

People with depression may notice that they feel worse at a particular time each day, usually in the morning.

If you think you may be depressed, you need to be seen by a health professional. If you have thoughts about self-harm then you should see a doctor as a matter of urgency. Your GP is the best option in this case.

It is advised that you do not try to diagnose yourself. Also, don’t wait. If you are depressed, the sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can begin to improve.

Options you can take

  • The NHS offers excellent information on mood, depression and wellbeing, and we recommend that you explore their web pages and follow the advice you find there.
  • The NHS Steps to Wellbeing service offers effective treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for common mental health problems, for example anxiety and depression. Clinics take place at the University, and you can refer yourself. Steps to Wellbeing is available to students registered with a Southampton GP; similar services such as iTalk and Talking Change are available in surrounding areas.
  • Exercise is known to help relieve feelings of depression. The University’s Sport and Wellbeing team run a wide range of facilities and activities in and around Southampton.
  • Visit our wellbeing web page for practical suggestions about how to look after yourself. Enabling Services run workshops and courses on topics such as relaxation and mindfulness, which are not ways of treating depression but may help you to strengthen your ability to cope when things are not going well.

Students against depression

Students Against Depression offers advice, information, guidance and resources to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking. Alongside clinically-validated information and resources it presents the experiences, strategies and advice of students themselves.

NHS guides to common problems including depression

Information is available as downloads and podcasts.

A story about overcoming depression

An animation created in colloboration with the WHO to mark World Mental Health Day.

NHS Video about depression

NHS expert advice about depression and low mood.

Centre for Clinical Interventions

A range of E-books and PDF downloads from a respected source.

Have I got a problem?

Free resources for mental health and addiction issues

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