Depressive disorders

Depression, mania, affective disorders

Depression is very common and can affect anyone. Common signs of depression can include a depressed mood, negative thoughts, brooding and sleep problems. It can have many causes, for example stress, which in turn can exacerbate depression. It is therefore important to recognize depression at an early stage, which gives the person affected a good chance of treatment.


Depression can occur at any age. Around 20 percent of the population will suffer from severe depression at least once in the course of their lives. Women are affected more often than men. They can occur in episodes that can usually last several months if left untreated, with around a third of depression becoming chronic.


Typical symptoms of depression are a depressed mood, negative thoughts and a lack of drive. A sense of joy and pleasure, self-esteem, performance and interest in life can also be reduced or lost. In the case of depression, these symptoms last for at least two weeks and are very pronounced. People with severe depression in particular often suffer from suicidal thoughts. Depressive symptoms can also have an impact on work and family life. The symptoms can start quickly or develop slowly over a longer period of time or only occur in phases.

Woman sitting on a bed in the dark


In medicine, we speak of multifactorial causes, i.e. biological components (such as changes in hormone levels), genetic factors (a relative already suffers or has suffered from depression), as well as environmental factors (loss of work or a separation) can lead to a depressive episode alone or in combination. Sometimes a trigger for the symptoms can be found, in other cases the onset of symptoms cannot be assigned to a specific event. Chronic depression is often linked to stressful life experiences in childhood and adolescence. Stress and depression reinforce each other.

Self-help groups

The exchange with people who are affected by the same disease can be a great support in coping with the disease. Advice on finding a suitable self-help group is available from Selbsthilfe Zürich. Self-Help Zurich and the University Hospital Zurich are cooperation partners in the national project “Health literacy thanks to self-help-friendly hospitals”.

Clarification with us

Many depressed patients are tormented by the fact that their illness – unlike a broken bone, for example – cannot be “proven”. As a result, they are exposed to greater suffering than patients with other illnesses.

Depression can affect anyone. However, many people find it difficult to seek help and support. However, optimal medical and therapeutic care can only be provided after a clear diagnosis has been made. If you have the feeling that you are suffering from depression, you should visit us, because depression is generally very treatable.

The detailed discussion required for the diagnosis takes place with a doctor of psychiatry or with psychological psychotherapists. If necessary, we also use standardized questionnaires to assess symptoms.

In individual cases, a cranial MRI may also be considered for clarification.

Once the diagnosis has been made, the available treatment options are discussed together. The treatment decision is always tailored to the individual needs and possibilities of those affected. Ideally, optimal therapy combines psychotherapy with symptom-oriented drug treatment, if this is necessary. In severe cases, especially if there is a risk of suicide, inpatient treatment in a clinic may be necessary for the protection and relief of those affected.