Depression is a serious mood disorder that can impact how you feel, think, and act. It is more than feeling down or having a bad day. It can be disabling and can interfere with your ability to work, go to school, and have relationships.
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, but they generally involve persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness, anxiety, and/or emptiness. Some other common symptoms of depression are fatigue, poor concentration, sleep problems, aches, and frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression can take different forms, ranging from mild to severe. It can last for months, weeks, or even just a few days, and can reoccur at different intervals throughout your life.
It’s important to note that everyone experiences some of these symptoms from time to time, especially when going through a difficult period. However, if you are experiencing a prolonged period of sadness or sorrow, then this could indicate depression.
Depression is a mental health condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. It is estimated that one in six people will experience depression in their lifetime.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Many people struggle with depression, yet don’t realize it. Symptoms of depression vary, but may include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, irritability, fatigue, lack of concentration and decreased interest in activities previously enjoyed. A person with depression may also engage in excessive sleeping, overeating, or have difficulty completing daily tasks.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe. It is possible to experience some symptoms without having depression, but when they become persistent, it could be an indication of depression. If you find yourself experiencing any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, it is recommended to seek help from a mental health professional.
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling down more days than not
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Restlessness and agitation
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Trouble concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Frequent physical complaints like headaches, digestive problems, and fatigue
Depression is a serious illness and can be debilitating if not treated properly. If you or someone you care about is exhibiting any of these signs and symptoms, there is hope and help available. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, it may be necessary to get help from a mental health professional.
Types of Depression
Depression is a serious mental health condition that can take on many forms, and it affects everyone differently. There are several types of depression, each with its own unique symptoms and levels of severity. It is important to understand the different types of depression in order to properly address your symptoms and get the appropriate treatment.
The three main types of depression are categorized as major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most severe form of depression, and it can have a severe impact on day-to-day life. Symptoms of MDD can include:
- Extreme sadness or lack of interest in activities
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Fatigue and low energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
In order to be diagnosed with MDD, an individual must experience these symptoms for at least two weeks.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) is sometimes referred to as dysthymia. This is a long-term form of depression that can last for two years or longer. Symptoms are similar to MDD but generally milder. A person may have episodes of MDD during a period of PDD, but they do not need to experience full-blown MDD in order to be diagnosed with PDD.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme shifts in mood and energy levels. During depressive episodes, individuals with bipolar disorder experience similar symptoms to those of MDD. During manic episodes, they experience increased energy and activity, irrational behavior, and an elevated mood. Mania can be dangerous if left untreated, and in extreme cases can lead to psychosis.
Causes of Depression
Depression is a serious mental health condition that can have a wide range of causes, making it hard to identify and treat. It's important to know what could be contributing to your depression so you can get the right help and support.
The most common causes of depression are:
- Genetic factors – some people have a higher likelihood of developing depression due to their genes.
- Biochemical imbalances in the brain- chemicals called neurotransmitters influence mood. Too little or too much of certain neurotransmitters can lead to depression.
- Hormonal imbalances – sometimes, hormonal imbalances can trigger depression.
- Stressful life events – if you have recently gone through a traumatic event such as a death in the family, bullying or abuse, this can trigger symptoms of depression.
- Physical illness – if you have a physical condition such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or another long-term physical illness, this can increase your risk of depression.
- Substance use – alcohol and drugs can contribute to feelings of depression.
It is important to remember that depression is not just caused by one factor. It's often a combination of several of these factors that can lead to an episode of depression.
If you’ve started to notice that you are feeling unusually down or have been feeling down for a while, and if the signs and symptoms of depression sound familiar to you, it is important to get diagnosed by a professional.
A doctor or an experienced mental health professional will be able to assess your symptoms and diagnose whether you are experiencing depression or not. Your doctor or mental health professional will take into account your symptoms, as well as other personal factors such as family history, to make a diagnosis.
Getting a diagnosis is important as it means that you can get the most effective treatment to help you manage your depression.
To diagnose depression, mental health professionals use criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual outlines the different types of clinical depression and lists the criteria used to assess and diagnose different types of depression.
A mental health professional may also ask you questions about your moods, thoughts, and behaviors, as well as your family history, to determine if you meet the criteria for any type of depression. Other tests, such as blood tests, brain scans, or psychological tests, may also be used to rule out any underlying physical conditions that could be causing your depression.
Coping with Depression
Depression can be overwhelming and difficult to cope with, but there are tools that can help. Some people find that talking to a friend or loved one about their feelings is helpful, although it is important to make sure that you keep your own safety in mind. It can also be useful to keep a journal so you can take note of any changes in your mood or behaviour. This can help you identify any patterns or triggers that might be causing your depression.
Exercising regularly can be beneficial to mental health, and can reduce stress and anxiety. Regular exercise gives you a sense of accomplishment and can improve self-esteem. Finding a physical activity that you enjoy, such as walking, running, swimming, or cycling, can be a great way to cope with depression.
Diet is also an important factor when it comes to managing depression. Eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding too much caffeine or sugar can help manage mood swings and boost energy.
Meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and provide a sense of calm. Deep breathing exercises can be a great way to relax and focus, while guided meditation can help to clear the mind and slow down racing thoughts.
Talking to a professional can also be beneficial. Therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals can provide support and advice on how to cope with depression. They can also provide resources and referrals for more specialized services, such as medication and lifestyle changes.
Treatments for Depression
Depression is a serious mental health condition that can affect your life in many ways. Fortunately, treatments are available to help you manage and sometimes overcome the symptoms of depression. Depending on the type and severity of your depression, a variety of treatments may be recommended.
The most commonly recommended treatments for depression are psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) and medications. This combination of treatments is called “integrated treatment.”
Psychotherapy is a form of counseling with a qualified mental health professional. The therapist will help you understand your emotions and thoughts and talk through any difficult situations you may be dealing with. Through this process, you can gain insight into how your thoughts and behavior influence your feelings of depression.
The type of psychotherapy used to treat depression is often called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Throughout the course of CBT, you'll learn to identify and challenge negative thoughts and behaviors and replace them with more positive ones. Other types of psychotherapy may also be recommended for treating depression, such as interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend medications to help treat your depression. These medications are known as antidepressants and work by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain that can contribute to symptoms of depression. Commonly prescribed antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
It’s important to note that medications can help reduce the symptoms of depression, but they do not cure it. In many cases, medications and psychotherapy are used together to get the best results.
In addition to psychotherapy and medication, other treatments may be recommended for people suffering from depression. This could include lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and changes in diet, or alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage, or yoga.
Your doctor will work with you to find the best combination of treatments for your individual needs. It can take time to figure out which treatments work best for you, so it's important to be patient and stay dedicated to your treatment plan.
If you feel like your depression is too difficult to manage on your own, it may be time to seek professional help. A variety of mental health professionals are available to help you, depending on the severity and type of depression you have. Common types of professionals who specialize in depression include psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, therapists, and social workers.
These professionals can help you assess your symptoms and develop an individualized treatment plan that is best suited to your needs. Treatment plans often include both psychological therapy and medication to help reduce symptoms and manage depression. It is important to find a mental health professional that you trust and feel comfortable with, as you will need to work together to find the best course of treatment for you.
Helplines and Resources
Depression can feel overwhelming and isolating. Reaching out for help is an important part of managing and overcoming depression. Thankfully, there are many resources available to help you cope, both online and offline.
Thankfully, there are a variety of helplines and resources available to assist with depression. Such helplines may include:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. – 1-800-273-8255 (24/7 hotline)
- Crisis Text Line – Text “HOME” to 741741 for free 24/7 support in the U.S.
- Samaritans – 116 123 in the UK, Republic of Ireland, and around the world (24/7 hotline).
- TrevorLifeline – 866-488-7386 in the U.S. (24/7 hotline for LGBTQ+ individuals).
Additionally, there are numerous online resources that can provide support, such as:
- Mental Health America – Free mental health and wellness resources.
- Psychology Today – Comprehensive directory of mental health professionals.
- NAMI – The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides education, support groups, and other resources.
- Crisis Text Line – Free 24/7 text-based crisis support in the U.S.
Finally, there are many online support communities which can provide comfort and insight. These communities can even connect people with similar experiences, which can make it easier to open up about your struggles and get the support you need.
No matter how you choose to receive help for your depression, be sure to reach out and find the resources necessary to cope and recover.
Living with Depression
Learning to live with depression can be a long and difficult journey. It can feel overwhelming, especially at first, as you navigate the changes that come with living with mental health issues. But it is possible to find balance and lead a fulfilling life. Here are some tips for finding success in managing your depression.
Take care of yourself.
Self-care is essential when managing depression. Taking time to nurture and love yourself is one of the best ways to manage difficult feelings. Make time for activities you enjoy, seek out relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, practice good sleep hygiene, and eat healthy foods. Self-care is the foundation for successful mental health management.
Have a support system.
Living with depression can be isolating, so having a strong support system is key. Spend time with people who understand and encourage you, who can provide comfort during difficult times. Ask a friend or family member to help you with day-to-day tasks, or make an appointment with a therapist who can guide you through the difficult times.
Setting goals can provide structure to your days and help you track your progress. It can also be empowering to reach those goals and see your hard work pay off. Break your goals down into manageable tasks and practice patience and compassion with yourself along the way.
Tune into your emotions.
The more in tune you are with your thoughts and feelings, the better able you will be to manage them. Pay attention to the emotions you’re feeling and the ideas you’re thinking. Notice when it’s time to take a break or take a step back. Tap into your own intuition to provide comfort and support.
Ask for help.
Living with depression can be a challenge, but you don’t have to go it alone. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Reach out to family and friends, or contact a mental health professional if needed. And don’t forget to access local resources, like crisis lines and community centers, which can provide additional support and resources.
Seeking Help When Needed
If you think you may be suffering from depression, it's important to seek help. It can often be difficult to do this, as you may feel embarrassed or ashamed, but it’s essential to get the right support to allow you to start feeling better. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional, such as a counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist, to get an accurate diagnosis and determine the best treatment plan for your particular situation.
Sometimes just talking with family members or friends can be an important part of getting the help you need. You should never be afraid to reach out and talk to someone who understands and can provide a listening ear. Often times, loved ones can be an invaluable source of support and understanding on the journey through depression.
Your personal network is also a great resource for local support groups which can connect you with individuals who are going through similar experiences. You can share your feelings, learn from each other’s journeys and gain valuable insights. Support groups can often be found through recommenders, online searches, or through your local mental health organization.
Finally, there are many available helplines that are there to provide anonymous support. Many of these services provide a toll-free hotline and are available 24/7, 365 days a year. If you feel like you want to talk to someone confidentially, a helpline can be a valuable asset.
Depression is a highly individual experience, and the way it manifests in different people can vary. The key to treating depression is to seek professional help as soon as possible, and to accept emotional support from family and friends. It’s important to remember that depression can be successfully treated, and that recovery is possible with the right help. If you’re concerned that you or someone you care about may have depression, it’s important to take action quickly. With the correct diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to feel better.
If you are struggling with depression, please reach out for help. There are a range of helplines and resources available to provide support and information. You are not alone, and it is never too late to take action.