By Marcus Hoo
Depression occurs in the context of a depressive disorder, which is a class of mood disorders that derives from an interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors. It is very different from feeling sad or blue from time to time, which is considered normal and healthy. Many people may even feel depressed at times, but do not have a depressive disorder, which is usually called a “clinical depression”.
Depression can occur in random episodes of varying severity throughout one’s life. Individuals can also experience depression in the context of seasonal changes, during pregnancy, or postpartum. As you can see, depressive disorders exist on a continuum and varies a great deal in terms of type and severity.
If someone is experiencing depression, they may find that in addition to losing access to previous feelings, abilities, thoughts, and sensations that they also experience added depressions symptoms such as over sleeping, crying spells, agitation or irritability, and thoughts about wanting to die. This later symptom can be particularly dangerous. If someone you care about is depressed, or you worry about their safety, trust your instincts and reach out to a professional for ways to best support yourself and those you care about.
Signs of Depression
Despite presenting in a variety of ways, all depressive disorders include similar symptoms that involve mood dysregulation. For many, depression includes somatic components such as the loss of sleep, weight, appetite, and sex drive.
Depressive symptoms are perhaps better understood by what someone is no longer able to experience rather than the presence of sadness, for which depression is typically most known. For example, many people experiencing depression lose access to the feeling of happiness, hope, or a sense of self-worth. They are not just feeling chronically sad, but also experiencing an absence of the ability to feel pleasure. This symptom can include or lead to a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or energy to engage with daily tasks. These can have a great deal of impact on one’s interest in daily life as well as their ability to concentrate or think.
What Causes Depression?
The cause of depression can be extremely complex. Many people that are diagnosed with depression often develop anxiety disorder, and vice versa. Their causes, symptoms and treatment can even overlap.
You can have two people with contrasting symptoms and yet both may meet criteria for a diagnosis of clinical depression. Similarly, whereas some people may require brief therapy or medication, others may require long term treatment. Although we may not be able to pinpoint a main cause for depression, we do know of many factors underlying and contributing to it. These factors can include stressful life events, one’s temperament, genetic vulnerabilities, early childhood loss and trauma, seasonal changes, medical disorders, certain medications and many more.
Like a physical illness, depression can be treated. There are psychological treatments that can help to reduce negative thinking, create strategies to tackle problems and improve relationships. For some, a combination of medication and psychological treatments may work best. It is important to find an approach that works for your situation.
Call to Action
If you are in need of help or you feel like you are depressed, check out our list of therapists there to help you: