Depression is part of everyday experience, usually passing with time and support from family and friends.  Clinical depression involves similar feelings but more severe and enduring.

Talking about his own depressive illness, the scientist, Lewis Wolpert, said,

“It was the worst experience of my life.  I was totally self-involved, negative and thought about suicide most of the time. I could not think properly, let alone work…”

Eventually Wolpert made a complete recovery with a combination of antidepressant medication and cognitive behaviour therapy.

Most clinical depression is treated by family doctors who can refer patients to psychological therapies or prescribe medication where needed. However, a minority of people treated in this way do not recover and require specialist help which is provided by Oxford Health Foundation Trust and the University Department of Psychiatry.

The university department has pioneered  psychological treatments for depression and is a leader in new forms of ‘mindfulness’ approaches and their application to cognitive behaviour therapies. There is also research funded by the Medical Research Council that examines how antidepressant treatments work at a psychological level. This work is designed to improve both drug and psychological treatments for depression and identify novel ways in which they can be productively combined.

Philip Cowen, Professor of Psychopharmacology, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford

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Page last reviewed: 21 September, 2021