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Most people have felt sad or depressed at times. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or an injured self-esteem.
But when feelings of intense sadness — including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless— last for many days to weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your depression may be something more than sadness. It may very well be clinical depression — a treatable medical condition.
- A depressive disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by a sad, blue mood that goes above and beyond normal sadness or grief.
- A depressive disorder is a clinical syndrome, meaning a group of symptoms.
- Depressive disorders feature not only negative thoughts, moods, and behaviors but also specific changes in bodily functions (like, eating, sleeping, energy and sexual activity, as well as developing aches or pains).
- One in 10 people will have a depression in their lifetime.
- Because depression can lead to self-harm including suicide, it is important to note that one of every 25 suicide attempts results in death.
- Some types of depression, especially bipolar depression, run in families.
- While there are many social, psychological, and environmental risk factors for developing depression, some are particularly prevalent in one gender or the other, or in particular age or ethnic groups.
- There can be some differences in signs and symptoms of depression depending on age, gender, and ethnicity.
- Depression is only diagnosed clinically in that there is no laboratory test or X-ray for depression. It is therefore crucial to see a health professional as soon as you notice symptoms of depression in yourself, your friends, or family.
- The first step in getting appropriate treatment for a depressive disorder is a complete physical and psychological evaluation to determine whether the person, in fact, has a depressive disorder.
- Depression is not a weakness but a serious mental illness with biological, psychological, and social aspects to its cause, symptoms, and treatment. A person cannot will it away. Untreated or undertreated, it can worsen or return.
Symptoms of Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with depressive illnesses don’t all experience the same symptoms. How severe they are, how frequent, and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. Here are common symptoms people with depression experience:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Loss of pleasure in life
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts