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What is Depression?

Also known as clinical depression or a depressive disorder, depression is a common mood disorder that affects how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. Although everyone has spells of feeling down, depression is more than just spending a few days feeling sad or unhappy. 

Depression can make you feel persistently sad and/or down for weeks or even months at a time. While some people believe that depression is trivial or not a genuine health concern, it is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States.


Affecting 1 in 10 people over the course of their lives.

How many people suffer from depression?

Clinical depression has surged to epidemic proportions in recent decades, from little-mentioned misery at the margins of society to a phenomenon that is rarely far from the news. It is widespread in classrooms and boardrooms, refugee camps and inner cities, farms and suburbs. At any one time it is estimated that more than 300 million people have depression – about 4% of the world’s population when the figures were published by the World Health Organization in 2015. 


Depression is the leading global disability, and unipolar (as opposed to bipolar) depression is the 10th leading cause of early death. The link between suicide, the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29, and depression is clear, and around the world two people kill themselves every minute. While rates for depression and other common mental health conditions vary considerably, the US is the “most depressed” country in the world, followed closely by Colombia, Ukraine, the Netherlands and France. At the other end of the scale are Japan, Nigeria and China.


What are the signs of Depression? 

Despite presenting in a variety of ways, all depressive disorders include similar symptoms that involve mood dysregulation. Depressive symptoms are perhaps better understood by what someone is no longer able to experience rather than the presence of sadness, for which depression is typically most known. For example, many people experiencing depression lose access to the feeling of happiness, hope, or a sense of self-worth. They are not just feeling chronically sad, but also experience an absence of the ability to feel pleasure. This symptom can include or lead to a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or energy to engage with daily tasks. For many, depression includes somatic components such as the loss of sleep, weight, appetite, and sex drive. These can have a great deal of impact on one’s interest in daily life as well as their ability to concentrate or think.

If you or someone you know has any of the following symptoms for at least 2 weeks, talk to a doctor or nurse or mental health professional:

  • Feeling sad, “down,” or empty, including crying often

  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, or useless

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed

  • Decreased energy

  • Difficulty staying focused, remembering, or making decisions

  • Sleeplessness, early morning awakening, or oversleeping and not wanting to get up

  • Lack of appetite, leading to weight loss, or eating to feel better, leading to weight gain

  • Thoughts of hurting yourself

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

  • Feeling easily annoyed, bothered, or angered

  • Constant physical symptoms that do not get better with treatment, such as headaches, upset stomach, and pain that doesn’t go away



What causes Depression?

Like many mental health disorders, the cause of depression is complex. No two people have the exact same symptoms and yet both may meet criteria for a diagnosis of clinical depression. Similarly, whereas some people may require brief therapy or medication, others may require long term treatment. While we may not be able to discern a single cause for depression, we do know of many factors underlying and contributing to it, including but not limited to: 


  • Family history 

  • Genetic Vulnerabilities 

  • Temperament 

  • Mood dysregulation in the brain 

  • Chemistry and/or hormone levels

  • Stress

  • Early childhood loss and trauma

  • Seasonal changes


What are the symptoms of Depression?

Depression can involve a range of symptoms that affect your thoughts, feelings, moods and the way you behave. For many, it can also involve physical symptoms. These symptoms tend to be apparently persistent and can range in their severity from moderate to overwhelming. 


There are common symptoms of depression: 

  • A persistent, pervasive feeling of sadness and/or emptiness 

  • Frequent feelings of irritability and annoyance

  • The belief that things are hopeless with no signs of improvement

  • A pessimistic, negative or helpless outlook 

  • Feeling as if you’re guilty or worthless

  • Fatigue and generally decreased levels of energy 

  • Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early

  • Inability to keep yourself still and/or feelings of restlessness

  • A loss of interest in hobbies or other activities you enjoy

  • Reduced speech and/or movement speed

  • Changes in your appetite or weight loss / gain 

  • Suicidal thoughts 


The exact symptoms of depression can vary widely from person to person. While some people with depression develop many severe symptoms, others may only experience a few that vary in severity over time. 



What are the treatment options for Depression? 


Psychotherapy is a general term for treating depression by talking about your condition and related issues with our expert clinicians. Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy or psychological therapy.


Different types of psychotherapy can be effective for depression, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy. Your clinician may also recommend other types of therapies. Psychotherapy can help you:

  • Adjust to a crisis or other current difficulty

  • Identify negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones

  • Explore relationships and experiences, and develop positive interactions with others

  • Find better ways to cope and solve problems

  • Identify issues that contribute to your depression and change behaviors that make it worse

  • Regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life and help ease depression symptoms, such as hopelessness and anger

  • Learn to set realistic goals for your life

  • Develop the ability to tolerate and accept distress using healthier behaviors

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