Depression is a mood disorder that can cause distressing symptoms that may affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and physical habits, such as sleeping, eating, and working. In general, depression is characterized by slow, sparse thoughts coupled with feelings of loss and sadness. People with depression may experience withdrawal from relationships or activities they once enjoyed.

There are many forms of depression, including major depressive disorder. Individuals may experience bouts of depression, or depressive episodes, that persist for several weeks or months. During those times, you may feel overwhelmingly sad or hopeless. Those thoughts may cause distress or disrupt your daily life.

It’s important to remember, you know your thoughts and feelings best. If you notice a change in your thought patterns or mood that persists for several weeks, talk to your doctor or therapist. Depression is a serious illness and the symptoms are best managed when treated early.

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

Everyone feels sad or low occasionally, those feelings typically subside after a short period of time. However, if those feelings of sadness persist and begin to disrupt daily life, they could be symptoms of major depressive disorder or another form of clinical depression.

The symptoms of depression typically affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and physical habits. People with depression may experience overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness persist for several weeks and do not improve over time. Some people may describe their thoughts as sparse, or slow to develop or process. People with depression may also have thoughts of suicide. Other symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness or tearfulness.
  • Feelings of emptiness, helplessness, or hopelessness.
  • Loss of interest in activities that once brought you joy.
  • Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration.
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness.
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Changes in eating patterns, including reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain.
  • Changes in sexual activity or desire.
  • Thoughts that feel slow to develop or process.
  • Loss of thoughts or ideas.
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things.
  • Loss of energy or the desire to complete typical activities or responsibility.
  • Frequent or recurring thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts.

If you or a loved one is experiencing several of these symptoms nearly all day, every day for several weeks, and it’s affected daily activities and responsibilities, it is best to talk to your doctor or a therapist.

What are the Types of Depression?

There are several types of depression, each with unique characteristics or symptoms. It is important to be open and honest with your behavioral health specialist so he or she can help you best manage your symptoms.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): Also referred to as major depression or clinical depression, it is characterized by prolonged periods of sadness, often accompanied by low self-esteem, withdrawal from relationships, and loss of interest in activities.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): A form of depression associated with a change in the seasons. Often, it’s present during the fall or winter when there are fewer hours of daylight.

Persistent Depressive Disorder: Previously referred to as dysthymia, it is characterized by a chronic, depressed mood accompanied by one or two other symptoms of clinical depression that lasts at least two years in adults and one year in children. This low, dark mood occurs nearly every day and can persist for many years.

Postpartum Depression: A form of depression that can affect women after childbirth. Women with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that can make it difficult to complete daily activities. Postpartum depression can affect any woman regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or economic status. It’s important to remember postpartum depression does not occur because of something a mother does or doesn’t do. Some women may have a greater risk of developing postpartum depression if they have previous experience with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or substance use.

Bipolar Depression: A form of depression referring to the “low” periods or bouts of depression a person with bipolar disorder may experience. Learn more about bipolar disorder.

What are the Risk Factors for Depression?

Risk factors for depression are varied and include both health and environmental factors. A person’s family history and genetics play a significant role. Other factors and causes include:

  • Family history and genetics
  • Chronic stress
  • Anxiety
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Trauma
  • Substance Use Disorder
  • Medications and/or steroids
  • Certain types of cancers

What are the Treatments for Depression?

Individual treatment plans will vary depending on a person’s diagnosis and symptoms. With treatment, it is possible a person’s symptoms may decrease in severity or frequency over time. It is important to seek treatment as early as possible, as symptoms of depression will likely increase if untreated. Often, people who have experienced more than one bout or episode of depression will need treatment for the long term.

Learn more about Treatments for Depression.

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