Depression is a mental health disorder that affects people in different ways. It can cause a variety of feelings from sadness to hopelessness and can affect people of all ages. There are several types of depression, some can become as severe as causing physical symptoms or even self-harm.
What is Depression?
Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities. It often involves changes in appetite, sleep patterns, or energy levels, and can lead to difficulties in daily functioning and a negative impact on overall well-being.
What Causes Depression
Depression is a complex mental health condition influenced by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. While the exact causes of depression may vary from person to person, understanding some of the common contributing factors can provide insights into its development. Some key elements to consider may be:
Signs and Symptoms
Depression can often be a silent battle, especially among teenagers and young adults. It’s important to know and understand the different signs of depression so you can look out for them. Here are some more common ones:
- Persistent Sadness: Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or a generally low mood that last for an extended period, typically more than two weeks.
- Loss of Interest: A decreased interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyable or meaningful to the individual.
- Changes in Appetite/Weight: Noticeable changes in appetite to the point that weight is gained or lost unrelated to dietary changes.
- Changes in Sleep Patterns: Disruptions in sleep, such as insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness and prolonged sleep).
- Lack of Energy/Fatigue: Persistent feelings of fatigue, low energy levels, or a general sense of being physically and mentally drained.
- Difficulty Concentrating: A general feeling of being unable to focus on tasks or think clearly.
- Feelings of Guilt or Worthlessness: Frequent self-critical thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, or an inability to forgive oneself.
- Restlessness or Agitation: An inability to sit still, feeling on edge or fidgety, often accompanied by a tendency to engage in purposeless activities.
- Changes in Behavior: Noticeable changes in behavioral patterns, such as increased self-isolation or avoidance of social situations.
- Suicidal Thoughts: Thoughts of self-harm or suicide expressed either explicitly or indirectly. Any mention of self-harm should be taken seriously and immediately addressed.
If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide, call 9-8-8 immediately or visit www.988lifeline.org/
When treating depression, various approaches can be effective, and the choice of treatment depends on the individual’s needs and preferences. Here are some commonly utilized methods.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is widely recognized as a beneficial treatment for depression. CBT helps individuals identify negative thought patterns and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Other types of therapy, like Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), may also be employed to address underlying issues or improve interpersonal relationships.
Antidepressant medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of depression. These medications work by balancing brain chemicals linked to mood regulation. A psychiatrist or medical professional can determine the most suitable medication and dosage for an individual’s specific needs.
Learn about different medications commonly used to treat depression from the National Library of Medicine
Engaging in healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, can help reduce symptoms of depression. Additionally, spending time with supportive friends and family members or participating in activities that bring joy can improve mood and overall well-being.
Attending a support group for people dealing with depression can provide a sense of community and understanding. Connecting with others who have experienced similar challenges can offer valuable support, encouragement, and shared coping strategies.
Find support groups near you from Mental Health America
Types of Depression
There are different types of depression, and understanding each one can help you get the right diagnosis and treatment. Here are some of the most common types.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
MDD is a severe form of depression that affects all areas of an individual’s life including work and relationships. Symptoms must persist for at least two weeks to be considered clinically significant.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
PDD is a less severe type of depression in which symptoms persist for more than two years with intermittent periods of relief.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is a type of depression that occurs during winter due to decreased natural sunlight exposure. Symptoms can include fatigue, low motivation, and difficulty concentrating.
Psychotic depression is a more severe type of depression where the individual experiences delusions or hallucinations in addition to depressive symptoms.
Postpartum depression is experienced by some new mothers following childbirth as a result of hormonal changes and dramatic lifestyle shifts.
Situational depression is caused by a stressful life event such as a death, job loss, or major transition. Symptoms usually resolve after the situation has passed, but may persist if not addressed.
Learn more about different types of depression from the National Institute of Mental Health
How do I know if my teen is depressed or just going through a phase?
If your teen has been exhibiting signs of depression for more than two weeks or the symptoms are interfering with their ability to function in everyday life, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional. Keep in mind that depression can manifest differently in adolescents and is often overlooked due to age-related behavior changes.
How long does depression treatment typically last?
The duration of depression treatment varies depending on the individual and the severity of their condition. For some, treatment may only last a few weeks or months, while for others it could require several years of therapy and medication management. It’s important to remember that depression treatment is individualized and progress is monitored closely by healthcare professionals to ensure the best outcomes.
Should I be concerned if my child talks about death or suicide?
Absolutely. Any mention of death or suicide should be taken seriously and immediate action should be taken. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please call 9-8-8 immediately or visit http://www.988lifeline.org for more information and resources.
How can I help support a loved one with depression?
Supporting someone with depression can be difficult, but there are some supportive measures you can take. Encourage them to seek professional help, attend their appointments or sessions with them if possible, and make time for conversations. Offer practical support such as helping run errands or providing meals when needed. Lastly, try to remain positive and encouraging even when it feels like nothing is working; your support could be the catalyst for positive change.