What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes ongoing feelings of sadness, hopelessness, grief and/or anger with disinterest in normal, daily activities. These feelings may affect sleep, job performance, relationships, physical health, as well as the ability to complete ordinary tasks. All humans have feelings of sadness and loss from time-to-time and experience difficult life events, but what distinguishes this from depression is that depression is a continuation of these feelings over a significant period of time, impeding normal daily function.  

Causes Of Depression

There is still much to learn about mood disorders and the brain, and it might not be easy to determine the root of a person’s depression. However, mood disorders can be biological in nature, meaning that it can be passed down in families or a person can be born with a higher chance of developing the disorder. Stressful life events, such as a divorce, death of a loved one or serious medical condition, can also alter brain chemistry and increase a person’s susceptibility of developing depression. Depression may first appear in children or teens and can continue into adulthood. Depression may occur only once in a person’s life after a major life-altering event, or depression may recur multiple times throughout one’s life.  

Symptoms Of Depression

Depression can cause a variety of symptoms. Symptoms can affect the way you feel, both emotionally and physically. Depression can affect men, women, and children differently and may include some of these symptoms:

  • Anger, irritability, anxiousness
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities, fatigue, suicidal thoughts, excessive drinking or using drugs
  • Lack of sexual desire or performance
  • Difficulty completing tasks or concentrating
  • Disruptions in sleep patterns
  • Unexplained body pains, headache, digestive problems, weight loss or gain

Treating Depression

Depression is a medical condition that is typically best addressed with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Without treatment, depression may become worse and lead to harmful thoughts and actions; however, treatment can help improve quality of life. Lifestyle choices can also significantly impact mood disorders and improve life enjoyment. Avoiding excessive alcohol and drugs, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sunshine, daily exercise, avoiding negative people, and participating in activities you enjoy can help improve mood disorders, such as depression.

When To Get Emergency Help

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Here are some other options if you’re having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call your doctor or mental health professional.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Reach out to a close friend, loved one, or spiritual leader.

If you have a loved one who is in danger of suicide or has made a suicide attempt, do not leave that person alone. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.