Depression Is a Very Real but Treatable Illness; Knowing the Signs Can Help You Start Feeling Better
September 17, 2021
Mental illnesses aren't visible to others like broken bones are. But they are just as real and important to diagnose as physical ones because they are treatable.
Depression is a type of mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is "a common but serious mood disorder that causes symptoms affecting how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working."
Depression is not just feeling sad or stressed. It is a serious condition, affecting more than 264 million people of all ages worldwide. Those suffering from it can't just "snap out of it."
Types of Depression
Some forms of depression are long-term. Others are more temporary and can be partially explained by stressful life circumstances such as grief, being diagnosed with a serious physical illness or experiencing hormonal changes (like after having a baby or going through menopause).
Symptoms of depression that last for more than two weeks are classified as Major Depressive Disorder. A depressed mood that lasts for two years or more is classified as a Persistent Depressive Disorder. The two forms of depression can overlap in the same person.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression symptoms can vary from person to person and may be affected by age, genetics, sex, environment and past experiences. These are some of the most common symptoms:
- Extreme feelings of emptiness or hopelessness that frequently cause bouts of crying
- Frustration and irritability that causes angry outbursts, even over seemingly small matters
- A loss of interest in normal daily activities that once caused happiness, such as hobbies, sports, sex and spending time with loved ones
- Changes in sleep patterns, from sleeping too little (insomnia) to sleeping too much (not having the motivation or energy to get out of bed in the morning)
- Changes in eating patterns, from having a reduced appetite to eating too much, having intense food cravings or gaining weight
- Overall fatigue and lack of energy (even simple tasks require more effort)
- Increased anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Halted body movements, speech patterns and thinking
- Extreme feelings of worthlessness or guilt (constantly fixating on past failures and feeling needless self-blame about past decisions and mistakes)
- Having trouble concentrating on daily tasks and/or having difficulty remembering things or making simple decisions
- Unexplained physical ailments such as a stomachache, headache or back pain
- Frequent or recurring thoughts of death, including suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- In teenagers, depression can lead to feelings of worthlessness and can result in risk-taking behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol
- In younger children, depression can result in clinginess, excessive worry, unexplained pains, and loss of interest in friends and school
Symptoms of depression are usually severe enough to affect a person's daily life, including work or school, social activities and relationships. Fortunately, there are many proven ways to help treat and manage depression, including therapy with a licensed professional, medication and/or specific lifestyle changes that can help reduce stress. The first step towards feeling better is recognizing the symptoms and seeing a health care professional for a proper diagnosis.
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Date Last Reviewed: August 16, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD