What is Depression?

Depression is a mental disorder that goes beyond sadness. People with depression lose interest in things they once enjoyed and may struggle with daily living activities. Simple tasks like getting out of bed and taking care of personal hygiene may seem too arduous to manage. Other symptoms of depression may include drastic changes in eating or sleeping habits, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Physical symptoms

  • Sleeping more, having trouble sleeping, not feeling well-rested after sleeping
  • Loss of appetite or overeating

Emotional symptoms

  • Sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed, powerless, or hopelessness

Thought patterns

  • Glass half-empty outlook
  • Problems concentrating or paying attention

Effects on daily functioning

  • Difficulty reading or accomplishing work tasks or schoolwork
  • May interfere with relationships at work, school, or home

Causes of Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders and may be caused by a combination of factors including a person’s brain biochemistry (chemicals in the brain), genetics, personality (low self-esteem, a pessimistic outlook, and being easily overwhelmed by stress), and environmental factors (living in poverty, exposure to violence or abuse).

Treatments for Depression

After a thorough medical evaluation, a person may be diagnosed with depression if symptoms affecting daily functioning have persisted for 2 weeks or more. Depression is one of the most treatable mental disorders. Treatment options include medication and psychotherapy.  Self-care practices like exercise, healthy eating, not consuming alcohol, and getting enough sleep may help alleviate symptoms.

An important note about grief: Grief and depression are not the same but may co-occur. A person who suffers from depression may suffer a more intense and long period of grieving.