Depression is classified as a mood disorder. It may be described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger that interfere with a person’s everyday activities.
It’s also fairly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Trusted Source estimates that 8.1 percent of American adults ages 20 and over had depression in any given 2-week period from 2013 to 2016.
People experience depression in different ways. It may interfere with your daily work, resulting in lost time and lower productivity. It can also influence relationships and some chronic health conditions.
Conditions that can get worse due to depression include:
It’s important to realize that feeling down at times is a normal part of life. Sad and upsetting events happen to everyone. But, if you’re feeling down or hopeless on a regular basis, you could be dealing with depression.
Depression is considered a serious medical condition that can get worse without proper treatment. Those who seek treatment often see improvements in symptoms in just a few weeks.
Depression can be more than a constant state of sadness or feeling “blue.”
Major depression can cause a variety of symptoms. Some affect your mood, and others affect your body. Symptoms may also be ongoing, or come and go.
The symptoms of depression can be experienced differently among men, women, and children differently.
Men may experience symptoms related to their:
mood, such as anger, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, restlessness
emotional well-being, such as feeling empty, sad, hopeless
behavior, such as loss of interest, no longer finding pleasure in favorite activities, feeling tired easily, thoughts of suicide, drinking excessively, using drugs, engaging in high-risk activities
sexual interest, such as reduced sexual desire, lack of sexual performance
cognitive abilities, such as inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, delayed responses during conversations
sleep patterns, such as insomnia, restless sleep, excessive sleepiness, not sleeping through the night
physical well-being, such as fatigue, pains, headache, digestive problems
Women may experience symptoms related to their:
mood, such as irritability
emotional well-being, such as feeling sad or empty, anxious or hopeless
behavior, such as loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from social engagements, thoughts of suicide
cognitive abilities, such as thinking or talking more slowly
sleep patterns, such as difficulty sleeping through the night, waking early, sleeping too much
physical well-being, such as decreased energy, greater fatigue, changes in appetite, weight changes, aches, pain, headaches,
Children may experience symptoms related to their:
mood, such as irritability, anger, mood swings, crying
emotional well-being, such as feelings of incompetence (e.g. “I can’t do anything right”) or despair, crying, intense sadness
behavior, such as getting into trouble at school or refusing to go to school, avoiding friends or siblings, thoughts of death or suicide
cognitive abilities, such as difficulty concentrating, decline in school performance, changes in grades
sleep patterns, such as difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
physical well-being, such as loss of energy, digestive problems, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain
The symptoms can extend beyond your mind.
These seven physical symptoms of depression prove that depression isn’t just all in your head.
There are several possible causes of depression. They can range from biological to circumstantial.
Common causes include:
Family history. You’re at a higher risk for developing depression if you have a family history of depression or another mood disorder.
Early childhood trauma. Some events affect the way your body reacts to fear and stressful situations.
Brain structure. There’s a greater risk for depression if the frontal lobe of your brain is less active. However, scientists don’t know if this happens before or after the onset of depressive symptoms.
Medical conditions. Certain conditions may put you at higher risk, such as chronic illness, insomnia, chronic pain, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Drug use. A history of drug or alcohol misuse can affect your risk.
About 21 percent of people who have a substance use problem also experience depression. In addition to these causes, other risk factors for depression include:
low self-esteem or being self-critical
personal history of mental illness
stressful events, such as loss of a loved one, economic problems, or a divorce
Many factors can influence feelings of depression, as well as who develops the condition and who doesn’t.
The causes of depression are often tied to other elements of your health.
However, in many cases, healthcare providers are unable to determine what’s causing depression.
Types of depression
Depression can be broken into categories depending on the severity of symptoms. Some people experience mild and temporary episodes, while others experience severe and ongoing depressive episodes.
There are two main types: major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder.
Major depressive disorder
Major depressive disorder is the more severe form of depression. It’s characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that don’t go away on their own.
In order to be diagnosed with clinical depression, you must experience 5 or more of the following symptoms over a 2-week period:
feeling depressed most of the day
loss of interest in most regular activities
significant weight loss or gain
sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep
slowed thinking or movement
fatigue or low energy most days
feelings of worthlessness or guilt
loss of concentration or indecisiveness
recurring thoughts of death or suicide
There are different subtypes of major depressive disorder, which the American Psychiatric Association refers to as “specifiers.”
peripartum onset, during pregnancy or right after giving birth
Persistent depressive disorder
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) used to be called dysthymia. It’s a milder, but chronic, form of depression.
In order for the diagnosis to be made, symptoms must last for at least 2 years. PDD can affect your life more than major depression because it lasts for a longer period.
It’s common for people with PDD to:
lose interest in normal daily activities
have low self-esteem
Depression can be treated successfully, but it’s important to stick to your treatment plan.