What is Depression

Depression has been called the ‘common cold of mental health’ especially since the release of the medication Prozac in the 1990’s. At that time depression was finally recognized as a real disorder and not something that was all in someone’s head.

Have you been ‘blue’? Felt down for a day or two about a particular situation or maybe for no reason at all? I think we’ve all been there. So when does feeling blue translate to being depressed or have a major depressive episode?

Think about depression as having three distinct parts. There is the frequency of the symptoms – how often do you feel like this? Is it related to a situation such as separation from your partner or is it random? Does it happen weekly? Daily? Monthly?

There is also the severity of the depression such as how bad do you feel? Would you consider suicide? On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst you could imagine – how would you rate this feeling?

And the last part is the duration. Although this might seem like the frequency it is different. The frequency relates to how often it happens while the duration relates to how long it’s been going on. Have these feelings of being blue or down been going on for weeks? Months? Years?

Depression is a mood disorder that affects your mental health and can negatively affect your ability to function and perform daily activities. Or maybe it just keeps you isolated from your friends but you continue to be able to go to work. Depression can interfere with you enjoyment of your normal activities or it can cause somatic complaints. Somatic complaints while you are depressed are physical aches and pains that are caused by mental stress and distress.

There are arguments about what actually causes depression. There are those who believe that some of us are genetically predisposed to being depressed when we encounter the correct psychological trigger. On the other hand there are those professionals who believe with the right trigger and brain chemistry (affected by our stress) all of us can experience clinical depression.

Some people are able to point to a specific incident that precipitated a depressive episode, such as your partner leaving, a loved one dying, or losing a job. Others may not be able to point to a specific incident. However, with appropriate psychotherapy the sufferer is usually able to point to something in their past that has affected their very behavior in the present. The combination of emotional trauma and pain from the past plus the trigger from the present is enough to cause an episode of depression.

When depression is caused by more than one factor professionals are not always able to point to the exact cause, especially when one of the factors may be low self-esteem or anxiety. Which comes first? The low self-esteem and anxiety, or the depression?

Depression has some more common symptoms. This isn’t a comprehensive list symptoms, and some sufferers exhibit symptoms in a different way than others. This is just meant as a guideline to help you determine if depression is what you might be feeling:


Changes in sleep patterns
Headaches, stomaches
Changes in weight – either gaining or losing
Loss of energy
Lost interest in your usual activities
Neglecting personal hygiene
Difficulty making decisions
Feeling down, irritable, negative, guilty, or empty
Feeling hopeless and helpless
Feeling worthless

Many sufferers find that antidepressant medications, in combination with psychotherapy, yields the best results. And this belief is backed up through research.

If you believe you may be suffering from depression don’t suffer in silence or alone. There are people who can help you find hope and happiness once again.


National Insitute of Mental Health: what is depression

National Alliance on Mental Illness: What is Depression

HelpGuide: Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs

Kidshealth: Understanding Depression

Stanford School of Medicine: What is Depression

Psychology Today: What is Depression

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: What is Depression