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Depression

Depression Symptoms & Treatment

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Your story's not over.

What is Depression?

Clinical depression goes by many names, such as "the blues," biological depression, and major depression. But it all refers to the same thing: feeling sad and depressed for weeks or months on end -- not just a passing blue mood of a day or two. This feeling is most often accompanied by a sense of hopelessness, a lack of energy (or feeling "weighed down"), and taking little or no pleasure in things that once gave you joy in the past.

Depressed? Take the Quiz Now

Depression symptoms take many forms, and no two people's experiences are exactly alike. A person who's suffering from this disorder may not seem sad to others. They may instead complain about how they just "can't get moving," or are feeling completely unmotivated to do just about anything. Even simple things -- like getting dressed in the morning or eating at mealtime -- become large obstacles in daily life. People around them, such as their friends and family, notice the change too. Often they want to help, but just don't know how. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression can often start off as higher levels of anxiety in children. But today, the causes of depression still remain largely unknown.

Clinical depression is different from normal sadness -- like when you lose a loved one -- as it envelops a person in their day-to-day living. It doesn't stop after just a day or two -- it will continue on for weeks on end, interfering with the person's work or school, their relationships with others, and their ability to enjoy life and just have fun. Some people feel like a huge hole of emptiness inside when experiencing the hopelessness associated with this condition. In any given year, 7 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with this condition; women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be diagnosed than men (American Psychiatric Association).

What's Depression Feel Like?

"[If there was] certainty that an acute episode [of depression] will last only a week, a month, even a year, it would change everything. It would still be a ghastly ordeal, but the worst thing about it -- the incessant yearning for death, the compulsion toward suicide -- would drop away. But no, a limited depression, a depression with hope, is a contradiction. The experience of convulsive pain, along with the conviction that it will never end except in death -- that is the definition of a severe depression."
~ George Scialabba


Can Depression Be Treated?

The short answer is yes: clinical depression is readily treated nowadays with modern antidepressant medications and short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy. For most people, a combination of the two works best and is usually what is recommended. In more serious or treatment-resistant cases, additional treatment options may be tried (like ECT or rTMS). No matter how hopeless things may feel today, people can get better with treatment -- and most do.

Our library of resources below can help you better explore this condition, to help you learn the symptoms of it, common treatments, what to expect when you see a doctor or therapist, and how long it will be before you start to feel relief from your symptoms.


Symptoms of DepressionSymptoms and Types of Depression
What are the warning signs and symptoms doctors and therapists use to diagnose depression?
What are the causes of depression?
Newly diagnosed? What you need to know about depression.

Depression TreatmentTreatment of Depression
What are the effective, scientific treatments for depression? We discuss the benefits of psychotherapy, medications, and whether you should consider psychotherapy, medication or both.

Living with DepressionLiving with depression
Are you living with this condition in your everyday life? If so, check out our Living With... guide for a wealth of helpful tips and articles about living with this condition.

Also check out people's Personal Stories of Depression.
Getting Help For Yourself Getting help for yourself

Helping Someone Who's Depressed Helping someone who is depressed
Have a friend or loved one that you suspect might be suffering from this condition?
10 Things You Should Say to a Depressed Loved One
4 Ways to Support Someone with Depression
What Not to Say to a Depressed Person


 

Depression in the News


References

Materials in this section are based upon academic, professional and government sources, which are listed below.

    American Psychiatric Association
    National Institute of Mental Health
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    Archives of General Psychiatry
    Science
    Psychiatric Services
    Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
    Journal of Psychiatric Research
    Harvard Review of Psychiatry
    Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
    Journal of the American Medical Association
    Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Jun 2016
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.