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Understanding Depression: Signs, Symptoms, and Seeking Support

At least 21 million Americans experience a major depressive episode, making it one of the most common mental health cases among individuals. People can undergo depression for different reasons, and the symptoms show up differently for every person. Due to this, depression should always be taken seriously and not taken with a grain of salt. There are many ways you can help alleviate the symptoms of depression, yet many do not get help at all in regards. From seasonal depression to persistent depressive disorder, depression can take all forms and sizes. Let’s go over the basic foundation. 

What is Depression?

Depression is a disorder of the brain and a serious mental illness that is more than just “feeling down” or feeling “blue” for some time. While sadness, grief, and even some feelings of hopelessness are part of the human experience, depression involves a low or sad mood that persists for generally longer than 2 weeks consecutively. Someone who suffers from depression might notice a decline in energy, loss of appetite, feelings of emptiness, or loss of interest in things they enjoy. 

Untreated depression can affect a person’s physical and emotional well-being. This can then affect your personal life, professional life, and relationships with family and friends. Nearly 3 in every 10 adults (30 percent) have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives. While depression can occur at any time and any age, on average, it can first appear during someone’s late teens to mid-20s as with many mental illnesses begin to occur. 

Types of Depression 

There are many types of depression, as it can take many shapes and forms, and be brought on by a myriad of factors. 

Major Depressive Disorder

This is also known as clinical depression and is where people feel that a consistent dark mood is consuming them. This form of depression inhibits daily functions and causes those who suffer from it to lose interest in activities they enjoy. 

Persistent Depressive Disorder

This refers to when a low mood lasts for two or more years. A person with this disorder may experience episodes of major depressive disorder along with periods of less severe symptoms

Postpartum Depression

This is a form of depression that affects women after having a baby; many people do NOT think that this is a real thing, but it definitely is.  It causes intense, long-lasting feelings of anxiety, sadness, and fatigue, making it difficult for mothers to care for themselves and/or their babies. 

Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression is associated with changes in the seasons and is a form of depression that usually occurs in the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and darkness.   

Psychotic Depression

One of the rarer forms of depression with psychosis which comes when people are very depressed, such as delusions and/or hallucinations. 

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

  • Continued feelings of sadness, hopelessness, pessimism, and emptiness

  • Fatigue, lack of energy

  • Insomnia or other sleeping issues

  • Anxiety, irritability, restlessness

  • Feeling worthless or guilty

  • Lack of interest or joy in hobbies and activities

  • Weight fluctuation

  • Sleep fluctuation

  • Thoughts of not wanting to live

Seeking Support

There are many effective treatments for depression, including medications and therapy. Living with depression can feel lonely, and people may be fearful or ashamed of being labeled with such a serious mental illness. However, those suffering are not alone, and with depression being one of the most treatable disorders, you should always take action and seek support. 

Source: SAMHSA (2023) Depression

Source: Brandi Koskie & Crystal Paypole (2023) Depression Facts and Statistics

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