What is Depression?

Clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for a longer period of time.

Depression may be described as a condition of feeling sad, unhappy, miserable, or being down in the dumps. Many of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods of time.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Low or irritable mood most of the time
  • A loss of pleasure in usual activities
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • A big change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slow or fast movements
  • Lack of activity and avoiding usual activities
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide

Low self-esteem is common with depression. It is also common to have sudden bursts of anger and a lack of pleasure from activities that normally make you happy, including sex.

Depressed children may not have the same symptoms as adult depression. Watch for changes in school work, sleep, and behavior. If you wonder whether your child might be depressed, it’s worth talking to a health care provider.

The main types of depression include:

  • Major Depression — to be diagnosed with major depression, you must have five or more of the symptoms listed above for at least 2 weeks. Major depression tends to continue for at least 6 months.
  • Atypical Depression — this occurs in about a third of patients with depression. Symptoms include overeating and oversleeping. You may feel like you are weighed down and get upset by rejection.
  • Dysthymia — a milder form of depression that can last for years, if not treated.

Other common forms of depression include:

  • Postpartum Depression — many women feel somewhat down after having a baby, but true postpartum depression is more severe and includes the symptoms of major depression.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder — (PMDD) — symptoms of depression occur 1 week before your menstrual period and disappear after you menstruate.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — occurs most often during the fall-winter season and disappears during the spring-summer season. It is most likely due to a lack of sunlight.

Depression may also alternate with mania (known as manic depression or bipolar disorder). Also, depression may be more common in women than men perhaps because women report the symptoms more often. And depression is more common during the teenage years.