What is Depression?
Depression is a type of mood disorder that involves great feelings of sadness, discouragement, or feelings of unworthiness. Even though feeling sad, lonely, or scared are normal feelings among teenagers, when these feelings become severe and persist for a long time, it may be a sign of depression. Because the symptoms of depression can often go unrecognized, it is important to be aware of the common symptoms and to understand where to get help.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 1 in 8 women experience depression in their lifetime; twice the rate of men. In men, a depressed mood may manifest as tiredness, recklessness, irritability, and anger. In women, depression may manifest as sadness, worthlessness, and guilt.
Some common symptoms of depression are persistently feeling of sad, anxious, or empty, and feeling discouraged or irritable to an extent that prevents one from enjoying hobbies and activities. The following is a list of other feelings that may indicate signs of depression:
- Constant feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed.
Types of Depression
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depression is characterized by at least five of the symptoms listed above. One of the symptoms is either an overwhelming feeling of sadness or a loss of interest and pleasure in most usual activities.
In addition, other symptoms that are associated with major depression include hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, constant fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or excessive and inappropriate guilt, constant thoughts of death with or without specific plans for committing suicide, diminished ability to think, concentrate and make decisions.
The symptoms persist for two weeks or longer and represent a significant change from previous functioning in social, occupational, educational, or other important situations.
Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood
This disorder is diagnosed when the symptoms of depression are triggered within 3 months after experiencing a stressor, which can be anything from a natural disaster or a death in the family.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
For those who are affected by SAD, they often experience the same symptoms as Major Depressive Disorder but only during a specific time of the year, which is usually in the winter and can be attributed to the shorter days and the lack of sunlight.
Bipolar Disorder (manic depression or bipolar depression)
This is a condition that, at times, experiences episodes of major depression and, at other times, experiences mania (emotional highs).
Causes of Depression
Studies have proven that depression and bipolar disorder run in families. Someone who has a first-degree relative who has suffered from major depression has an increase in risk for the condition of 15% to 3% over normal.
Stressful life events
While it is true that most people who experience a stressful life event do not develop a mood disorder, stress plays an important role in depression.
Stress is an automatic physical response (pounding heart, tense muscles, faster breathing rate, sweating) to a stimulus that requires one to adjust to change. Stress is often short-lived, and the body returns to normal soon. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can create long-lasting effects to one’s mind and body.
How to Get Help
- Get a medical checkup and speak to a doctor about any health conditions that can cause symptoms of depression.
- Talk to a counselor or a therapist. Therapy has proven to help people understand their emotions, feel understood and supported, build confidence, work out problems, increase self-esteem and to feel happier. Visit https://members.adaa.org/page/FATMain to find a therapist in your region.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255