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Anyone can get low at times, but someone is said to be suffering from depression when these bad feelings don’t go away quickly, or become so bad that they interfere with everyday life. Depression is very common - one in five people may become depressed at some point in their lives.

How do I know if I’m depressed?

While we all have depressed or stressed feelings from time-to-time, depression is more powerful and unpleasant, and lasts for longer. Depression may continue for months and even years. It’s also likely to significantly affect your functioning, meaning that the usual tasks of living feel very difficult to do.

A student who is depressed may have 5 or 6 of these symptoms (be aware that depression presents slightly different for different people):

  • Feeling unhappy most of the time.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all activities. This can also extend to academic work.
  • Loss of libido (not interested in sex any more).
  • Loss of interest and motivation regarding their studies.
    Diminished ability to think or concentrate in lectures or when attempting to study.
  • Indecisiveness.
  • Truancy/absenteeism.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy and/or restlessness or agitation.
  • Change in appetite or weight.
  • Change in normal sleeping patterns (insomnia or hypersomnia).
  • Social isolation or withdrawal.
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Feelings of worthlessness and/or inappropriate guilt or poor self-esteem.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death and dying. This could include recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt, or a specific plan for committing suicide.
  • Physical symptoms – aches and pains, headaches, sleeplessness and digestive tract ailments amongst others.

What help can I get?

The following are often used to help with depression:

  • Counselling or psychotherapy
  • Therapy groups or support groups
  • Antidepressant medication from a GP or psychiatrist (if needed)

If you think that you might be depressed, or you feel that you need help for other problems, then you should get counselling or therapy. You don’t need to wait until your problems escalate to a level where you feel that you can’t cope.

It’s important to remember that neither psychotherapy nor antidepressants are ‘quick-fixes’ and that both take some time to work. 

Find out more about Depression self-help

Wits Student Crisis Line  0800 111 331 (24/7/365)

Watch Zamo Mbele talk about depression