What Is Depression

Learn about the symptoms of depression, types of depression, and tips for managing depression in yourself or a loved one.

The term “depression” often characterizes feelings of being

sad, discouraged, hopeless, irritable, unmotivated, as well as a general lack of interest or pleasure in life. When these feelings last for a short period of time, it may be called a

passing case of “the blues.” But it’s likely to be a depressive disorder when they last for more than two weeks and interfere with regular daily activities.

Symptoms Of Depression

Losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce, and other difficult situations can lead a person to feel sad, lonely, and scared. These feelings are normal reactions to life's stressors. Most people feel low and sad at times. However, in the case of individuals who are diagnosed with depression as a psychiatric disorder, the manifestations of the low mood are much more severe and they tend to persist. You might be depressed if you have any of the following symptoms:

Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood

Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex

Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"

Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain

Restlessness, irritability

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, pessimism

Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts

Types Of Depression

There are different types of depressive disorders, and while there are many similarities among them, each depressive disorder has its own unique set of symptoms.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia)

The essential feature of this mood disorder is a low, dark or sad mood that is persistently present for most of the day and on most days, for at least 2 years (children and adolescents may experience predominantly irritability and the mood persist for at least 1 year).

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is characterized by having at least five nine common symptoms. One of the symptoms must be either an overwhelming feeling of sadness or a loss of interest and pleasure in most usual activities. The symptoms must persist for two weeks or longer and represent a significant change from previous functioning. Social, occupational, educational, or other important functioning are impacted by major depressive disorder. 

Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

This is diagnosed when symptoms of depression are triggered within 3 months of onset of a stressor. The stressor usually involves a change of some kind in the life of the individual which he/she finds stressful. Sometimes the stressor can even be a positive event such as a new job, marriage, or baby which is nevertheless stressful for the individual.

Tips For Managing Depression

Depression affects one’s cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical functions. One of the most insidious aspects of depression is that it tricks you into thinking that nothing will help, or that the relief will be temporary, and it will keep you in a cycle of maladaptive thinking, feeling, and doing (or non-doing). However, there are steps one can take to cope with depression.

Take Care of Your Physical Health

Get active! It is important to get 30 minutes of physical activity daily. This can be anything from yoga, walking, jogging, walking stairs, a stroll around the block, or gardening.

Sleep…getting adequate sleep is important for our physical well being, mental acuity, and concentration.

Take a Closer Look at Your Thoughts

Write down recurring thoughts…negative thoughts about oneself, one’s future, and the world are common; these thoughts are often distortions that feel real and often perpetuate unhelpful behaviors. By writing down these thoughts, one can begin to see the distortions a bit more clearly. 

Identify Unhelpful Behaviors and Replace Them With Healthy, Helpful Behaviors

Avoid making big decisions or contemplating major life decisions during this time.

Engage in healthy joyful activities—this can involve something as small as brewing a nice cup of tea, listening to a favorite song, sending an email/text to a friend, dancing in your own space.

If you are experiencing severe depressive symptoms, it may be time to seek out professional help. Signs of severe depression include:

  • Symptoms that are intense, paralyzing, and/or unrelenting (last months)
  • Inability to care for yourself (basic needs) or attend to daily responsibilities or relationships
  • Symptoms that are accompanied by substance abuse, self-harm, and/or thoughts of suicide

Depression is more than just sadness. It interferes with daily

life and causes pain for you and everyone who cares about

you. It’s a common illness, but a very serious one.

Founded in 1979, ADAA is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through education, practice, and research.

© ADAA, 2010-2021. Registered 501(c)(3) Nonprofit