What is Depression?

What is Depression?

“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” J.K. Rowling

Rainy days, setbacks of one sort or another, the canceling of a favorite TV series and any number of other things can have us claiming to be depressed. True depression, however, — technically, clinical depression — is a mood disorder that affects how someone feels, thinks and deals with everyday activities, like sleeping, eating, working and interacting with others. For clinical depression to be diagnosed, symptoms must be ongoing, present nearly every day, for at least two weeks. 

Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent sadness and anxiety
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest
  • Ongoing fatigue
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Physical symptoms without a clear cause that do not ease with treatment

Estimates are that one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Most people have either experienced depression in some form or another or know someone who has. While the symptoms of depression can appear at any time, it generally starts during the late teens or mid-20s, affecting more women than men. It is often difficult to determine the exact cause of depression, but studies suggest that some combination of genetic, biological, psychological and environmental factors usually play a role.

Common Forms of Depression

Not all depression is the same. Some are severe but do not last for an extended period of time, while other forms persist for years. The more common classifications include:

  • Major depression – episodes lasting at least two weeks that interfere with work, sleep, study, eating and the ability to enjoy life. May only happen once or may reoccur.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder – also called dysthymia, symptoms of major depression interspersed with less severe symptoms lasting for years.
  • Perinatal Depression–  full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery, includes prenatal depression, known as the “baby blues,” postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) typically starts in the late fall and early winter when there is less light due to shorter days and goes away during the spring and summer.
  • Psychotic Depression – major depression combined with some form of psychosis, such as delusions or hallucinations.
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) – a mood disorder in children and adolescents characterized by persistent irritability or anger disproportionate to the situation.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) – causes extreme mood shifts and sadness, hopelessness, irritability, and anger that can disrupt work and damage relationships.
  • Bipolar Disorder – the depression phase of the what was formerly called manic-depression. Symptoms can last for hours or months.

Depression is not the same as the sadness that comes with grief. The death of a loved one, loss of something significant, like a job, or the ending of a relationship are difficult experiences that take time to process and recover from. It is normal and, actually, healthy for feelings of sadness or grief to be present in those types of situations.

Depression has the potential to negatively impact everything in an individual’s life, but, fortunately, it is one of the most treatable of mental disorders. Once the correct treatment has been found, most people are able to respond well.

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Depression is a serious psychological issue. If it is handled improperly it can lead to serious injury and in some cases even death. If someone you know is suffering from depression and have attempted suicide, resulting in a serious injury or death, bring your case to us.

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