Practitioners near you who treat depression

Depression is a mental health condition. It’s associated with a persistent low mood and disinterest in life.

It’s not the same as feeling unhappy for a few days or overwhelmed after a big week at work. Instead, depression is a heavy feeling that sticks around – day and night. It can also make it difficult to take part in everyday activities.

Depression is both a symptom, as well as a condition itself.

This means you could be diagnosed with depression as your primary health concern. Yet, you may also show signs of depression if you’re dealing with chronic pain or another medical issue.

In Australia, psychologists refer to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses) when patients show depression symptoms. This manual helps with identifying, diagnosing and categorising depression. It also help with deciphering between the many depression causes.

The official criteria for depression is complex. It involves having 5 or more of the following symptoms during the same 2 week period. Plus, these symptoms cannot have previously existed in the same way.

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthless or inappropriate guilt
  • Loss of interest in life
  • Decreased concentration
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Fatigue on most days
  • Altered appetite
  • Weight loss or gain

Everyone’s depression symptoms are unique. Yet, they all relate to changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters. Dysfunction with dopamine, norepinephrine and/or serotonin levels can occur.

Types of Depression

Some types of depression have a specific set of symptoms or onset. This helps with categorisation, which can include:

Major Depression

Also called clinical depression, depression, unipolar depression

Major depression is when you have a low mood, feel sad most of the time, and lose interest in things that used to give you joy. It can be mild, moderate or severe and lasts consistently for at least two weeks. Types of major depression include:

  • Antenatal Depression occurs during pregnancy 
  • Postnatal Depression occurs within a year after giving birth
  • Melancholia is severe depression that manifests with physical symptoms. Patients usually move more slowly.
  • Psychotic Depression involves losing touch with reality. It may include hallucinations, delusions and/or paranoia.

Dysthymic Disorder

Lasts at least 2 years and manifests similarly to Major Depression, though it’s usually less severe.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

A mood disorder triggered by seasonal changes. It usually occurs in Europe during winter, as the weather is colder and there’s less natural light available. Australians are less susceptible to SAD as we enjoy longer, brighter days all year round. SAD symptoms include low energy and motivation, sleeping a lot, carbohydrate cravings. 

Bipolar Disorder

A combination of depression, mania and normal moods, but not all at the same time. Mania is when you have loads of energy, feel great and are prone to hyperactive thoughts. Hallucinations, delusions and paranoia may also occur. Cyclothymic Disorder is a less severe version of Bipolar Disorder. It usually lasts for at least 2 years.

Depression medication may be used to support all of these conditions.

In Australia, R U OK? Day promotes mental health awareness and is held each September. It encourages Aussies to start a conversation with friends and family who may be struggling with depression, or life in general.

Celebrities with Depression

Katy Perry, the award-winning singer, says antidepressant medication helped her through clinical depression. She called them a ‘crutch for her brain’ while she was recovering.

Actress Brooke Shields used depression medication to help her deal with postnatal depression. She took them to treat feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts, following the birth of her first child.

Signs and Symptoms

Depression symptoms and signs include:

Psychological: Feeling sad, empty, hopeless or worthless; frustration and irritability; loss of interest in everyday activities; anxiety; restlessness; obsessing about past failures; suicidal thoughts; poor concentration and difficult making decisions.

Physical: Sleeping more or less; fatigue; low appetite with food cravings; weight loss or weight gain; headaches/migraines and unexplained physical problems.

NB: Signs of depression can vary significantly from person to person. Please seek help from a health professional if you’re concerned about your mental health.


Depression medication is not the only treatment for depressive disorders. There are many recovery options available and here’s a selection of the most common:

  • Medications – Antidepressant medication helps boost the feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain. There are many types of antidepressants available. When you find the best one for you, it usually takes 2 or more weeks to feel improvement. NB: Most depression medications come with side effects, e.g. dizziness, diarrhoea or constipation.
  • Psychotherapy – A psychologist may use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Behavioural Therapy to help reshape how your brain processes information. This can decrease stress and help you integrate more joy into your life.
  • Counselling – This can help you process problems in personal relationships. It also teaches skills to help you deal with them. Speaking with a counsellor is important if your depression relates to relationship issues.
  • Creative Therapies – Art therapy and dance movement therapy can help with low mood. They’re considered when traditional approaches make little difference to depression symptoms.
  • Alternative Therapies – Allied health professionals can help treat the signs of depression. Try Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Homeopaths and Yoga Instructors. 


Depression causes you to have a low mood, however there isn’t one blanket cause of depression. The most common contributing factors include:

  • Family History: Having a family history of mental illness can make you more susceptible to depression.
  • Unexpected Change: Experiencing a sudden/unexpected relationship breakdown, job loss, death of a loved one or financial difficulty can increase stress levels and trigger depression symptoms.
  • Health Conditions: Other health conditions can contribute to feelings of depression. These include chronic pain, poor gut health and cancer.
  • Personality Traits: Certain personality traits increase your risk of depression, e.g. need for control, anger issues, perfectionism, low self-esteem, tendency to worry, sensitivity to criticism.
  • Drugs and Alcohol Use: Regular use of drugs and/or alcohol can alter brain chemistry. This makes you more susceptible to signs of depression.

What Works For Depression – Natural Options

Here are some natural, drug-free ways to minimise depression symptoms:

Exercise has an antidepressant effect that benefits all types of mental health disorders. It triggers the release of feel-good endorphins in the brain and can even reduce the need for depression medication. 

A Healthy Diet that’s full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant proteins supports mental wellbeing. It also helps minimise nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, oxidative stress and poor gut health. All these factors can exacerbate depression symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatments for depression. It involves working with a psychologist to identify and reprogram unproductive thoughts and behaviours.

Supplements can help reduce depression symptoms. The best choices support neurotransmitter health, cognitive function and energy . Popular supplements for depression include Vitamin B-Complex, Magnesium, St John’s Wort, Rhodiola. 

Acupuncture stimulates the release of beneficial brain chemicals, which helps regulate neurotransmitters. This can improve physical pain, mood and energy.

Meditation can change how the brain processes stress and anxiety. This helps to lift mood and lower depressive tendencies.

Find A Professional

The following health experts can help treat depression:

  • Psychologists
  • Counsellors
  • Naturopaths
  • Nutritionists
  • Acupuncturists
  • Homeopaths
  • Yoga Instructors
  • Meditation Teachers

Avaana can help you find a trusted health expert in your area.

Supporting Someone With Depression

Here’s how to help someone who’s feeling low:

  1. Ask ‘R U OK?’. It’s important to speak with your loved one if you suspect they’re depressed. Ask them if they’re okay, and then listen to their concerns. It’s normal if they acknowledge something is wrong, but don’t feel comfortable talking with you about it. In that instance, encourage them to seek professional help from a GP or psychologist.
  2. Be empathetic. It’s important to be empathetic when talking with your loved one about mental health issues. Don’t label their concerns as silly or nonsense. To them, the situation they’re in has a deep and very real impact on their emotional life. The following phrases can be useful and reassuring: ”What can I do to help?”, “That sounds really difficult”, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this”.
  3. Balance alone time with togetherness. People with low moods often want more alone time. Respect their need and request for space. But, remember they may also need encouragement to do everyday activities. If your loved one is isolating themselves, suggest a simple activity you can do together, e.g. picnic in the park. Being in the fresh air, in a different environment, is a great way to lift the mood.


What are 5 signs of major depression?

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthless or inappropriate guilt
  • Irritability, frustration, quick to anger
  • Decreased interest in activities that used to bring joy
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Fatigue on most days

What are 6 causes of depression?

Depression can be caused by:

  • Family history
  • Unexpected changes
  • Long term stress
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Personality traits, e.g. a need for control, low self-esteem, tendency to worry, sensitivity to criticism
  • Other health conditions.

What are 3 ways people deal with depression?

  1. Use antidepressant medications
  2. Seek professional help from a psychologist
  3. Adopt a healthy diet and regular exercise routine.

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