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:

1. Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood

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

3. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

4. Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"

5. Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain

6. Restlessness, irritability

7. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, pessimism

8. Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

9. Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts

Types Of Depression

There are different kinds 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)

Major Depressive Disorder

Postpartum Depression

Persistent depressive disorder, or PDD, is a form of depression that usually continues for a minimum of two years. Although it may be less severe than major depression, it runs much longer and mainly involves an overall “sad mood”. This can inhibit one's ability to derive daily pleasures.

To be considered a major depressive disorder, symptoms must not be caused by a medical condition, by another psychiatric condition, or by a substance use disorder. Depressive episodes last for a two week period or longer and can occur once, twice, or become frequent in a person’s lifetime. Click below to learn more about the symptoms!

10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression, which is depression associated with the aftermath of pregnancy. 30 to 70 percent experience symptoms for one year or longer. 4 to 5 percent of people who experience postpartum depression meet the criteria for major depression.

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.

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