Depression & Addiction
More than just feelings of sadness, depression is a mood disorder that can affect your physical, mental and emotional health and in severe cases can lead to self-harm and suicide.
It’s not possible for someone who is suffering from depression to simply ‘choose to be happy’ – instead, they require professional treatment that may include counselling and/or medication.
Depression is not a sign of weakness and can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status and environment. It can make carrying out everyday activities feel extremely difficult, and the affected person may struggle to see the joy in life and may begin to feel as though their life is not worth living.
Thankfully depression can be successfully treated, with the majority of people dealing with this mood disorder going on to live happily, fulfilled lives.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression in adults?
An adult with depression will typically exhibit a number of the below symptoms every day during a depressive episode, and these signs are usually noticeable to those closest to them.
Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK , but many people do not seek the treatment they need due to feelings of shame, worthlessness and guilt.
A number of adults suffering from depression may consider taking their own life, with one study revealing that 1 in 15 people in the UK attempt suicide over their lifetime. 
Some of the Common symptoms of depression in adults include:
- Ongoing feelings of tiredness and fatigue
- Changes in appetite – eating too much or not enough
- Feeling irritable and restless
- Difficulty concentrating on conversations and tasks
- Inability to make decisions
- Feeling as though things are moving slowly
- The trouble with remembering details
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Frequent outbursts of anger
- Insomnia – trouble falling asleep and/or waking up early
- Lack of interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyable
- Feeling negative, hopeless and pessimistic
- Frequent headaches along with other aches and pains
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Gastrointestinal problems including cramps, diarrhoea and constipation
- Thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide
There is no shame in suffering from depression. If you can relate to a number of the above symptoms and believe that you may be dealing with this mood disorder, seek advice from your doctor and begin the road to recovery.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression in children and teenagers?
It’s normal for children and young people to feel sad sometimes, particularly as they begin to grow up and take steps towards independence. However, if this sadness persists and begins to affect their daily lives, they may be dealing with depression.
Young children and teenagers suffering from depression may exhibit many of the above signs along with an additional set of symptoms that are specific to their age group.
It can be difficult to accurately diagnose this age group and many young people do not receive the help and support that they need, as many of the symptoms may be brushed off as hormonal changes or simple childhood emotions.
Some of the common symptoms of depression in children and teenagers:
- Appearing underweight and showing little interest in food
- Complaining of stomach aches and other pains
- Being extremely clingy
- Worrying about a number of different things
- Poor performance at school
- Not wanting to attend school
- Skipping classes
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Frequent mood swings
- Sensitive and easily upset
- Regularly tearful
- Feeling as though no one understands them
- Using drugs and/or alcohol
- Wearing long sleeves to cover up self-harm scars
- Thoughts of suicide
While it is rare but not unheard of for a child under 12 to attempt suicide, it is more common for teenagers to self-harm and experience thoughts of taking their own life.
As a result, parents should be aware of the above warning signs of depression and ensure they take the necessary steps to seek help for their child or teenager.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression in elderly people?
Many of the most common symptoms of depression in elderly people may be confused with medication side effects or simply as part of the ageing process.
However, it is possible for older people to experience depression and this often occurs due to chronic pain, a concerning health diagnosis or the death of a partner, friend or family member.
Depression in older people can increase the risk of death from a variety of illnesses including heart disease and cancer, which is why it’s extremely important for friends, family members and carers to learn how to recognise the signs and take action if needed.
Some of the common signs of depression in elderly people include:
- Choosing to stay at home instead of leaving the house and socialising with others
- Changes in personality, such as a previously outgoing person becoming quiet and reserved
- Frequently complaining of aches and pains
- Trouble remembering details and past events
- Appearing irritable and grumpy
- Finding it difficult to concentrate on TV shows, books or conversations
- Thoughts of suicide
Unfortunately, older people suffering from depression have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and may attempt to take their own life. In fact, the suicide rate of people aged 80-84 years more than doubles when compared to the rest of the population.
What can cause depression?
It is generally not possible to point towards one specific cause of depression, as there are a number of factors that can contribute to this debilitating mood disorder.
While anyone can develop depression, some studies show that it is more commonly diagnosed in people who have financial difficulties and live in deprived areas. 
Often, a number of factors combine to result in depression such as a relationship breakdown followed by a job loss and the death of a parent. Even just one of these events has the potential to result in depression, but all three combined may cause the individual to spiral into a dark hole of sadness.
Some of the most common causes of depression include:
1. A family history of depression
A number of studies have shown a link between depression and family genetics, meaning that if you have a close family member who suffers or has suffered from this mood disorder then your chances of developing it are increased.
2. Early life experiences
A traumatic or neglectful childhood can cause many people to grow up with a poor sense of self-worth along with low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. These feelings can contribute to depression, particularly if they have a domineering or overly-critical parent and do not seek treatment for their issues.
3. Stressful or upsetting life events
As mentioned above, stressful life events such as moving to a new country or dealing with the death of a loved one can cause depression. The risk increases if the individual withdraws from others and does not seek external help to make sense of their feelings, such as speaking to a therapist or trusted friend.
4. Becoming a mother
Due to the hormonal shifts that occur during and after pregnancy and childbirth, a percentage of new mothers may develop post-natal depression as they struggle to adjust to life with a newborn.
Being addicted to alcohol, drugs or other substances or behaviours can increase the chances of developing depression. Even if an individual is not addicted to alcohol, this substance is a known factor in the development of depression as it physically changes how the brain works.
Similarly, cannabis use has been linked to depression in teenagers due to the effect it has on their developing brains.
6. Being diagnosed with an illness
Being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition such as cancer or heart disease can be a terrifying and isolating experience, and this can lead to feelings of depression as the individual struggles to come to terms with their diagnosis.
Accidents, particularly head injuries, have also been linked with an increase in depression.
7. Feeling lonely and isolated
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of people suffering from depression since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020, and the primary factor driving this increase involves feelings of loneliness and isolation as many people have been unable to socialise with friends and family for the majority of this time.
What should I do if I think I have depression?
If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, it’s important to make an appointment with a doctor in order to discuss the symptoms and potential next steps.
You can also speak to a close friend, family member or someone else you trust if you feel hesitant about speaking to a doctor.
It can be helpful to encourage a depressed friend or family member to share their feelings with you, making sure to listen and ensuring that they feel heard.
In some cases, depression can become an emergency situation. If you find yourself experiencing thoughts of suicide or urges to hurt yourself, contact 999 immediately and seek medical assistance. As above, you can also speak to your doctor or someone you trust about these feelings or call the Samaritans on 116 123.
If someone you know is experiencing suicidal urges or thoughts of self-harm, make sure to stay with them until medical assistance arrives or accompany them to a hospital if you can do so safely.