Dual Diagnosis: Depression

With the right support, we can and do recover. The Dual Diagnosis Hub can help everyone to find the best dual diagnosis support and resources available.

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What are the signs of depression, how common is it, and how can it be treated?

With the right support, we can and do recover. The Dual Diagnosis Hub can help everyone to find the best dual diagnosis support and resources available.

People experience different levels of depression in different ways. There are mild, moderate or severe levels of depression.

People’s experience of depression is also influenced by their cultural background and by their personal values, beliefs and language.

If you are depressed, you will probably notice some of the following:


In your mind, you:

  • feel unhappy, miserable, down, depressed – this feeling just won’t go away and can be worse at a particular time of day, often first thing in the morning
  • can’t enjoy anything
  • lose interest in seeing people and lose touch with friends
  • can’t concentrate properly and find it harder to make decisions
  • lose your self-confidence
  • feel guilty and unworthy
  • become pessimistic
  • start to feel hopeless, and perhaps even suicidal.

In your body, you may find that you:

  • feel restless, nervous or agitated
  • feel exhausted and have no energy
  • can’t get to sleep or sleep too much
  • wake early in the morning and/or throughout the night
  • have a headache or stomach upset
  • lose interest in sex
  • can’t eat and lose weight or ‘comfort eat’ more and put on weight.

Other people may notice that you:

  • make mistakes at work or can’t focus
  • seem unusually quiet and withdrawn, or are avoiding people
  • worry about things more than usual
  • are more irritable than usual
  • are sleeping more or less than usual
  • complain about vague physical problems
  • stop looking after yourself properly – you don’t wash your hair or your clothes
  • stop looking after your home properly – you stop cooking, don’t tidy or forget to change the sheets on your bed.

Most people will not experience all of these, and some people may only be aware of physical symptoms. You may think that you have a physical illness because you feel very tired or have problems with sleep, but physical symptoms like these can be the first sign of depression.1 2

You may not realise how depressed you are, especially if it has come on gradually. Sometimes people try to struggle on and may even start to blame themselves for being lazy or lacking willpower.

It sometimes takes a friend or a partner to persuade you that there really is a problem and suggest that you seek help.


You may need to seek help if you or a friend or partner notice that:

  • Your feelings of depression affect your work, interests and feelings towards your family and friends
  • Your feelings of depression have been going on for a while and don’t seem to get any better
  • You find yourself feeling that life is not worth living, or that other people would be better off without you.

How common is depression?

Depression is the predominant mental health problem worldwide, followed by anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In 2013, depression was the second leading cause of years lived with a disability worldwide, behind lower back pain. In 26 countries, depression was the primary driver of disability. In 2014, 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16 and over showed symptoms of anxiety or depression – a 1.5% increase from 2013. This percentage was higher among females (22.5%) than males (16.8%).

What about anxiety?

Some people can also feel very anxious when they become depressed. You may feel on edge all the time, worried, fearful, and may find it hard to go out or be around people. Or you may experience physical symptoms such as dry mouth, sweating, breathlessness or stomach churning. See our leaflet on anxiety for more information. If you experience depression and anxiety, you will normally receive treatment for the one that is causing you the most difficulty.

What about bipolar disorder (manic depression)?

Some people who have depression may also have extended periods when they feel elated and extremely overexcited. This is called ‘mania’ and it may mean that you could have bipolar disorder (which used to be called manic depression). Please see our information on bipolar disorder to find out when and how to get help if you think you may have this condition.


This resource provides information, not advice.  

The content in this resource is provided for general information only. It is not intended to, and does not, amount to advice which you should rely on. It is not in any way an alternative to specific advice. 

You must therefore obtain the relevant professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the information in this resource.

If you have questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider without delay.  

If you think you are experiencing any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from a doctor or other professional healthcare provider.  

Although we make reasonable efforts to compile accurate information in our resources and to update the information in our resources, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in this resource is accurate, complete or up to date. 

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What is Depression?

Recovery Stories by People with Depression

With the right support, we can and do recover. The Dual Diagnosis Hub can help everyone to find the best dual diagnosis support and resources available.

Jean's Personal Recovery Story
Jean's Story

I wrote my life story in hope of helping others who suffered like me with depression, obsessions, anxiety, fear, bullying and addiction.

Useful Books on Depression

With the right support, we can and do recover. The Dual Diagnosis Hub can help everyone to find the best dual diagnosis support and resources available.

Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time

Depression doesn’t happen all at once. It starts gradually and builds momentum over time.

If you go through a difficult experience, you may stop taking care of yourself.

You may stop exercising and eating healthy, which will end up making you feel even worse as time goes on.

You are caught in a downward spiral, but you may feel too tired, too overwhelmed, and too scared to try and pull yourself back up.

The good news is that just one small step can be a step in the right direction.

In The Upward Spiral, neuroscientist Alex Korb demystifies the neurological processes in the brain that cause depression and offers effective ways to get better-one little step at a time.

In the book, you’ll discover that there isn’t “one big solution” that will solve your depression. Instead, there are dozens of small, practical things you can do to alleviate your symptoms and start healing. Some are as simple as relaxing certain muscles to reduce feelings of anxiety, while others involve making small efforts toward more positive social interactions.

Small steps in the right direction can have profound effects-giving you the power to literally “reshape” your brain.

Like most people, you probably didn’t wake up one day and find yourself completely depressed. Instead, it probably happened over time, as a series of reactions to difficult situations and negative thinking. But if you are ready to reverse the trajectory of your depression and find lasting happiness, this book will show you how.

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