Depression is a mental health condition associated with intense feelings of sadness. It is characterized by an all-encompassing low mood that often affects other areas of a person’s life.
Depression can take a variety of different forms, according to the National Institutes of Health. Major depressive disorder impacts sleeping, appetite, social relationships and concentration. Something called dysthymic disorder is a less severe type of depression, according to the NIH. The condition may be diagnosed if a person suffers symptoms for a minimum of two years. Minor depression is milder, however it does increase the likelihood of eventually developing major depressive disorder. Other types of depression include postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Symptoms & Causes
The most common symptoms associated with depression include feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, irritability, disinterest in enjoyable activities, low sex drive, difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, low energy and suicidal thoughts. Many different factors can play into the development of depression. Recent research has suggested that insomnia may be an accurate indicator for depression. Traumatic life events, stress, hormones, family history, brain chemistry and biology may all be contributing factors. Some types of depression are linked to specific life conditions. For instance, postpartum depression is thought to be triggered by hormonal changes that happen after childbirth. Seasonal affective disorder (also known as “the winter blues”) is characterized by feeling down during the cold winter months. Other research suggests that lifestyle choices, like drinking more than four cups of soda per day, can contribute to depression. Regardless of the cause, depression can be treated in many different ways. According to the NIH, antidepressants are commonly used. They work by altering the brain chemicals that regulate mood. This includes serotonin and norepinephrine. Anti-anxiety drugs and stimulants also represent a way of treating depression. Psychotherapy is another common approach. It typically focuses on establishing coping skills to help people manage the symptoms of their depression. Every case of depression is different and requires a treatment plan that is unique to the individual.