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Understanding Depression

Understanding Depression  | Belfast Psychology Services Blog

Depression refers to a wide group of symptoms that cause a change of mood, thoughts, and behaviours resulting in a deterioration of social functioning. The number of symptoms, the severity, and the degree of functional impairments can vary from mild to severe. Symptoms can include sadness, anxiety, worthless, hopelessness, tearfulness, loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed, fatigue, poor concentration and memory, indecisiveness and increased or reduced sleep, thoughts of life not worth living, and self-harm. Physical symptoms might also include headaches, aches and pains, digestive problems.

Depression in adolescence is similar to that in adulthood but there are also key differences. Adolescents are more likely than adults or children to have issues related to sleep, appetite, aggression and self-harm. Such differences in the presentation can lead to incorrect diagnoses (e.g. ADHD).

In adolescence, the 12-month prevalence of depression is estimated at between 3-5%,which is similar to the rate of depression in adulthood, at 5%. However, depression rates have been found to increase up to 20% by the end of adolescence. Adolescent females are also more likely than males to develop depression, with findings suggesting it is up to twice as likely after puberty. The main causes of depression in adolescence are not clear, however studies have identified a combination of genetic and psychosocial risk factors (e.g. disagreement with friends).

Therapy for depression

In therapy sessions, an assessment will be completed to understand the presenting problem, maintaining processes, protective factors, past history of the problem and risk. Through the collection of this information, key elements of Beck’s cognitive theory of depression, negative automatic thoughts (NAT's) of the self, the world and the future, and cognitive distortions, will all be identified. A biopsychosocial understanding (e.g. medications, relationships and occupations) will also be collected to support the development of an accurate and collaborative formulation.

CBT is recommended for both anxiety and depression, and where the problem is co-morbid the primary problem should be treated first. Interventions might focus on cognitive change through the use of such techniques as self-monitoring NAT’s, using thought records and behavioural change through the graded approach to goals.

For more information about attending therapy sessions for depression, please contact Belfast Psychology Services at

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