What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called
major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a
variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and
sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it.
Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better
with medication, psychotherapy, or both.

Symptoms

Although depression may occur only once during your life, people typically have multiple episodes. During these
episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies, or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day
activities, such as work, school, social activities, or relationships with others. Some people may feel
generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

Depression Symptoms in Children and Teens

Common signs and symptoms of depression in children and teenagers are similar to those of adults, but there can
be some differences.

  • In younger children, symptoms of depression may include sadness, irritability, clinginess, worry, aches and
    pains, refusing to go to school, or being underweight.
  • In teens, symptoms may include sadness, irritability, feeling negative and worthless, anger, poor performance
    or poor attendance at school, feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive, using recreational drugs or
    alcohol, eating or sleeping too much, self-harm, loss of interest in normal activities, and avoidance of
    social interaction.

Depression Symptoms in Older Adults

Depression is not a normal part of growing older, and it should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately,
depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated in older adults, and they may feel reluctant to seek help.
Symptoms of depression may be different or less obvious in older adults, such as:

  • Memory difficulties or personality changes
  • Physical aches or pain
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, sleep problems, or loss of interest in sex — not caused by a medical condition or
    medication
  • Often wanting to stay at home, rather than going out to socialize or doing new things
  • Suicidal thinking or feelings, especially in older men

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Introduction

Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is more than just feeling sad or experiencing occasional low moods. Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable. It can interfere with daily life, work, relationships, and overall well-being.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing depression involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional. A physical exam and lab tests are often conducted to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the symptoms. A psychiatric evaluation is also crucial, where the individual’s symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are assessed. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria are used as a reference to identify major depression.

Types of Depression

Depression can manifest in various forms, with different specifiers highlighting specific features:

  • Anxious Distress: Depression accompanied by restlessness, worry, or a fear of losing control.
  • Mixed Features: Depression co-occurring with symptoms of mania, such as increased energy and
    impulsivity.
  • Melancholic Features: Severe depression with an inability to experience pleasure and distinct
    physical symptoms like early morning awakening and changes in appetite.
  • Atypical Features: Depression where positive events can provide temporary mood improvement,
    along with increased appetite and sleep.
  • Psychotic Features: Depression accompanied by delusions or hallucinations.
  • Catatonia: Depression associated with motor abnormalities, like purposeless movement or
    immobilization.
  • Peripartum Onset: Depression occurring during pregnancy or after childbirth (postpartum).
  • Seasonal Pattern: Depression linked to seasonal changes and reduced exposure to sunlight.

Other Disorders with Depression Symptoms

Several other mental health disorders include depression as a symptom:

  • Bipolar I and II Disorders: Conditions characterized by mood swings between depression and
    mania.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder: A milder form of bipolar disorder with less severe mood swings.
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: A childhood disorder marked by severe irritability and
    frequent temper outbursts.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): A chronic form of depression that lasts for an
    extended period.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: Depression symptoms linked to hormonal changes before and after
    menstruation.
  • Depression due to Substance Use or Medical Conditions: Depression caused by substance abuse,
    certain medications, or medical illnesses.

Treatment

Treating depression often involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes:

Medications

Antidepressant medications, such as SSRIs, SNRIs, and tricyclic antidepressants, are commonly prescribed to help
regulate brain chemicals and improve mood. Your doctor will work with you to find the right medication and dosage
based on your symptoms and medical history. It’s essential to continue taking medications as prescribed and
communicate any side effects or concerns with your healthcare provider.

Psychotherapy

Various forms of psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and
psychodynamic therapy, can be beneficial in treating depression. Therapy helps individuals understand their
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, develop coping strategies, and learn healthier ways of managing stress and
emotions.

Lifestyle Changes

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can complement other forms of treatment. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient
sleep, and stress-reduction techniques can all contribute to improved mood and overall well-being. Avoiding alcohol
and drug use is also essential, as substance abuse can worsen depression symptoms.

Support and Care

Support from family, friends, and support groups can be invaluable in the treatment and recovery process. Seeking
professional help and reaching out for support is not a sign of weakness but a courageous step towards healing.

Conclusion

Depression is a common and treatable mental health condition that should not be ignored or underestimated. With the
right support, understanding, and treatment, individuals can manage depression and lead fulfilling lives. If you or
someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, don’t hesitate to seek help from a healthcare
professional.

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