What is depression?

Posted by Frank Gillespie MA

What is depression?

We all feel blue, unmotivated, melancholy or lethargic sometimes, but clinical depression is more than just experiencing temporary feelings of sadness. It is a serious condition that affects your mind and body. It impacts all aspects of your everyday life including eating, sleeping, working, relationships, and your self-esteem. If you are clinically depressed you cannot simply will yourself to feel better. If you do not receive appropriate treatment your symptoms can continue for weeks, months, even years. It is extremely important to treat depression as soon as possible as it may result in deadly situations (e.g. suicide).

What types of depression exist?

There are different types of depression like bipolar disorder, postnatal disorder, dysthymic disorder, postpartum depression, major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder and psychotic depression. Seasonal depression affects you during specific times or seasons of the year. During the winter months you may feel depressed and lethargic, but during other months your mood may be normal. The most common varieties of depression are dysthymic disorder and major depressive disorder.

    • Major Depressive Disorder: this illness impairs your ability to work, sleep, eat, and function as you normally would. It keeps you from enjoying activities that were once pleasurable, and causes you to think about yourself and the world in negative ways. Major depression is often disabling and may occur several times in a person's lifetime.


    • Dysthymic Disorder: a milder yet more enduring type of major depression. Dysthymia may appear to be chronic mild depression to the point that it seems to be a part of the personality. When you finally seek treatment for dysthymia, it is not uncommon that you have struggled with this condition for a number of years.


    • Bipolar Disorder: also known as manic-depression or manic-depressive disorder. This condition is characterized by mood that alternates between periods of depression and periods of elation and excitable behavior known as mania. The depressions can be severe and the mania can seriously impair your normal judgment. When manic, you are prone towards reckless and inappropriate behavior. You may not be able to realize the harm of your behavior and may even lose touch with reality.


    • Postpartum Depression: a rare form of depression in women occurring within approximately one week to six months after giving birth to a child.


Am I depressed: What are the symptoms of depression?

Not everyone with depression experience all of the following symptoms. The severity of the symptoms may also be different for every person and even vary over time. If you are experiencing some of these depression symptoms or if you have questions about whether you may be depressed or manic, you should consult a qualified mental health professional. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, or has made plans to do so, you should seek help immediately!

Possible signs of depression:

    • Sadness, anxiety, or "empty" feelings


    • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"


    • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed, including sex


    • Insomnia, oversleeping, or waking much earlier than usual


    • Loss of weight or appetite, or overeating and weight gain


    • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism


    • Feelings of helplessness, guilt, and worthlessness


    • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts


    • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering


    • Restlessness, irritability or excessive crying


    • Chronic aches and pains or physical problems that do not respond to treatment


What causes depression?

Unfortunately, it is not fully known what the exact causes of depression are. There are many theories about causes such as biological and genetic factors, environmental influences, and childhood or developmental events. Other times, depression may be directly related to a significant event in our lives such as losing a loved one, experiencing trauma, or battling a chronic illness. Depression may be caused or precipitated by a known or unknown physical medical condition such as hypothyroidism or by the use or abuse of substances such as drugs, alcohol, medications, or toxins. However, it is generally believed that clinical depression is mostly caused by the influence of more than just one or two factors. The causes of clinical depression are likely to be different for different people.

Essentially, we are all at risk for developing a depressive illness. People of all ages, races, and social class can become clinically depressed. However, it is important to know that the more common illnesses of major depression and bipolar disorder do tend to affect some groups of individuals more so than others. Risk factors such as gender, age, marital status, previous medical history and heredity are usually associated with the development of a depressive illness.

How to deal with depression?

Statistics show that depression is becoming more and more common all around the world. Depression affects almost 10% of the population. During their lifetime, 10%-25% of women and 5%-12% of men will become clinically depressed. Major depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 20 million people in the United States, aged 18 and above, experience clinical depression yearly.

Fighting depression alone can be very difficult and very often it will not produce the desired effect and make the situation even worse. Overcoming depression is not impossible however with professional help. Very effective treatments are available to help you if you are coping with depression and 80-90% of those who do seek treatment can feel better within just a few weeks.

However, only about one-third of those who are depressed actually receive treatment which means two-thirds never seek treatment and suffer needlessly. Many people do not seek treatment for depression for a variety of reasons. Research states that nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems said that stigma, perceived or otherwise played a major role in the decision-making process concerning treatment and the willingness to seek it.

That is truly shocking but hardly surprising in a world where mental health issues are still seen as a sign of weakness and sufferers are often discriminated against by employers, sometimes family and friends and society in general. Stigma and discrimination can worsen your mental health problems, and delay or impede you getting help and treatment, and your recovery. The other common message is often that treatment for mental health issues is too complicated and costly. Is it then any wonder that people do not seek treatment?

Online therapy can help to solve this. You can seek and receive professional help online from the comfort of your home with the maximum security and confidentiality without having to face social discrimination. Online therapy makes professional mental help also easily accessible and highly cost-effective.

Don’t let others negative opinion stop you from living the life you deserve. We are here to help you! Take the first step towards healing today!

Frank Gillespie MA

Frank Gillespie has a Master's Degree in Counseling from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. He is a nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). He has provided therapy for over 23 years. During his career, he has helped more than 10,000 people move past their obstacles towards reaching their potential and fulfillment in their lives. He practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a warm and nurturing approach. In addition to being a therapist, Frank has been an adjunct college professor teaching social work, a clinical consultant, a clinical director, and a seminar speaker. Frank has recently retired from his full time practice to focus on a part time online practice. He is married. He enjoys listening to music, watching sports, power walking, swimming, reading and writing.


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