Depression is a mood disorder that makes you feel constant sadness or lack of interest in life. It can affect how a person feels, thinks and behaves. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Those living with depression have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes may feel as if life isn’t worth living.
While everyone experiences feelings of sadness at some point in their life, those with clinical depression have prolonged periods of feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless. These feelings are not always tied to a specific incident and can last for many days to weeks. Depression can occur in children, adolescents and adults. Although someone can experience depression only once in their life, most who suffer with depression experience recurring episodes.
Some of the symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.
There is no known singular cause for depression. Instead, health professionals point to a combination of contributing factors including a person’s brain structure and chemistry. Hormone and genetics are also believed to play a role.
Help is available for those with depression. A mental health professional can conduct an evaluation and outline a course of treatment based on the patient’s individual needs. Treatment may include:
- Medications – These can include a combination of antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotic, anti-anxiety or stimulant medications
- Psychotherapy – Talking to a mental health professional on a regular basis about your depression and other issues can help treat the symptoms.
- Electroconvulsive therapy – This brain stimulation therapy passes electric currents through your brain to help your neurotransmitters work better.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation – This treatment uses a coil to send magnetic pulses through your brain to help stimulate nerve cells that regulate mood.
Some with depression may experience thoughts of hurting themselves or others. If someone you know is depressed and you think they may hurt themselves or attempt suicide, call 911immediately.