Insight into depression

What causes depression?

Depression is a common condition. It can occur at any age. A single cause has not been identified and causes differ from person to person. Depression can be triggered by stressful life events, childhood experiences, loneliness, excessive alcohol or drug use, physical illness and poor diet. However in some people there is no obvious trigger.

Many people use the word "depression" to describe feelings of sadness or loss that affect us all fromtime to time. These feelings often pass within a few hours or days when people carry on as usual. The ilness that a doctor calls depression is different. Your feelings are more intense and continue for longer. It is common to lose interest in things that you enjoyed. For some people every day life becomes difficult. The good news is that with support the majority of people recover from depression.

Check out our video below that explains more about depression.


What are the signs?

Depression affects people in many ways both emotionally and physically. Some people experience mild depression. At its most severe, depression can be life threatening. Common symptoms are:

  • Disturbed sleep and tiredness
  • Changes to appetite and weight
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • “Everyday lift seemed like such hard work. I simply didn't have the energy to go to work. to see friends, to shop or cook or clean. It all seemed pointless”. “My partner's depression  was affecting the whole family yet there seemed to be no support for the children and me”.
  • Feeling tearful, low, despairing or guilty
  • Avoiding intimacy with family and friends
  • Loss of confidence and self esteem
  • Thoughts of self harm and suicide

Not everyone has all these symptoms. If you experience some for more than a short period of time you may find that support from others is helpful.


Whether or not you are receiving medical treatment there are ways you can help yourself. People find it helpful to:

  • Challenge negative thoughts and concentrate on good things in life
  • Avoid smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs
  • Eat healthily and exercise
  • Talk to other people; this may help put things in perspective. If you feel you cannot confide in those close to you call a confidential helpline or attend a self-help group.

Talking or psychological therapies
Talking and psychological therapies involve talking and listening. Therapists are trained to listen and help you find your own answers without judging you. Some aim to find and deal with the cause of your depression; some help change behaviour or negative thoughts; others provide support. You can ask your doctor for talking therapies regardless of medication or other treatments.

Complementary or alternative therapies
The terms complementary and alternative therapies cover a range of treatments - some of which may provide benefits in treating mild or moderate depression. Therapies include herbal remedies, yoga, homeopathy, reflexology, acupuncture and aromatherapy. It is important you discuss complementary treatments with your doctor and let him or her know if you are using any and the results.

Anti-depressant drugs are the most common medication treatment for depression. They help alleviate symptoms so that underlying causes can be addressed. There are many different types and people respond differently. Like all medicines anti-depressants may cause unwanted side effects. Your doctor or pharmacist can discuss this with you.

Further help

NHS Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Talking Therapies
If you are registered with a GP in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdon or Fenland, you can access this service via self-referral or through your GP. Call 0300 300 0055. Lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, excluding Bank Holidays. it offers a range of support to help you make changes in your life to improve your wellbeing and to help you cope with stress, anxiety and depression. This includes self-help reading materials, guided self-help (both over the telephone and face-to-face), one-to-one therapies.
To self-refer or for more information about the service, please see our webpage:   NHS Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Talking Therapies

First Response Service
If you or a loved one is in mental health crisis, you can call our 24-hour First Response Service on 111 (option 2). This service is for anyone, of any age, living in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Specially-trained mental health staff will speak to you and discuss with you your mental health care needs.
More information about getting help in a crisis is available on this webpage:

The Samaritans
Dial 116 123 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week - free from any phone)
More information about the Samaritans can be found on its website here:

0300 304 7000 (lines open 6pm – 11pm, 365 days a year)
More information about SANE can be found on its website here:

Further information about depression can be found on Mind's website here:

pdf version of this page:  Insight into depression 2018.pdf 819KB

As a patient

As a patient, relative or carer using our services, sometimes you may need to turn to someone for help, advice, and support. 

Patient Advice and Liaison service  Contact the Trust