1. /
  2. Articles
  3. /
  4. Depression
  5. /
  6. What Is Depression? Who...

What Is Depression? Who Gets Depressed? What Can You Do?

by | Sep 26, 2003 | Articles, Depression

What is depression?

A common myth is that depression affects only those who can’t manage life’s ups and downs due to some personal weakness or failure of willpower. This is untrue. Depression is a medical illness not unlike diabetes or high blood pressure. A person with depression can’t change his or her mood any more than diabetics can use willpower to change their blood sugar level.

The causes of depression are many but in recent years it has become clear that all depressions involve a chemical imbalance in the areas of the brain that regulate mood and emotion. Just as diabetics need regular treatment with insulin or other therapies, people with depression often require medications or therapy to restore mood and help them feel better.

Who gets depressed?

Everyone gets “depressed” from time to time because of disappointments or frustrations of daily life. After a short period of feeling unhappy or sad, however, circumstances may change and our mood improves. But for many people, the symptoms of depression are more severe and last longer. These people have a medical illness called “clinical depression” which is very different from “feeling down” or “having the blues”. When “depression” is mentioned, we are referring to “clinical depression”.

If you believe that you are suffering from depression – you are not alone.

About 1 in 5 people will experience depression at some point during their life. Depression is most common in adults between the ages of 18 – 44, although it may occur at any point in a person’s lifetime. For many people the illness can start in childhood or adolescence but goes unnoticed because the symptoms – moodiness, irritability, and risk-taking behavior – may resemble typical teenage problems. Women are at especially high risk. Depression is about twice as common in women than in men. While depressed symptoms can occur at any time in a woman’s life, depression often coincides with hormonal changes experienced during menstrual periods, pregnancy or after giving birth. Late-onset depression affecting people over age 55 is also a problem and is often unreported as it is sometimes mistaken as simply “growing old”. Older people who become depressed have usually previously experienced one or more bouts of depression when they were younger.

How do I know if I am depressed?

Depression is most often associated with four types of symptoms:

  1. Changes in mood: People with depression have either a persistent feeling of sadness, or a reduced feeling of pleasure in activities (hobbies, family activities, etc.) that were once considered enjoyable. There may be a decline in having sexual relations. Sometimes depression is experienced as intense irritability.
  2. Physical symptoms: The most common physical symptoms involve:
    • Appetite: Reduced appetite, often with weight loss, is often seen. Increased appetite and weight gain may also be associated with depression.
    • Sleep: The most common sleep difficulty is awakening early in the morning. However, some people experience excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty falling asleep or frequent awakenings during the night.
    • Other physical symptoms: That may be present are headache, constipation, and general aches and pains.
    • Energy level and motivation: Depression often makes people feel profoundly tired, lacking energy and feeling unmotivated. Some people actually experience a physical slowing down, or a feeling of agitation and restlessness.
  3. Changes in Thought Pattern: People with depression often have negative thoughts. Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness are prominent, as are guilt or pessimism. Self-esteem and self-confidence may suffer since they do not feel good about themselves. Many depressed people complain that they can’t focus their attention, have trouble concentrating or can’t remember things.
  4. Anxiety:The vast majority of people with depression also have accompanying symptoms of anxiety, such as excessive worrying, nervousness, restlessness, panicky feelings or difficulty falling asleep. In fact, these symptoms may be so severe that many people seek help from their physician for anxiety, only to find that they are suffering from depression.

What do I if I think I have depression?


Depression is a medical illness that can be treated. So if you think you have depression, it is important to see your doctor immediately. Depression won’t go away if you try to cheer up, take more vitamins, drink more alcohol or go on a vacation. If a doctor does not treat the depression properly, it can last for months or years and can lead to difficulties in your personal/social life or at school and on the job.

Types of treatment:

Your doctor will want to give you a thorough physical examination since depression may occur with some medical illnesses, or may be caused by a medication that you may be taking for another medical condition. If your depression is not due to a medical condition, your doctor will want to talk to you about the different treatments available:

  • Medications: Newer antidepressant medications have proven to be very effective in treating depression (e.g. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). Other effective medication includes tricyclic antidepressants (TCA’s) and monoamine oxidase (MAD) inhibitors. In about 80 percent of cases, symptoms can be relieved and people can go back to their normal routine within a few weeks.
  • Counseling and therapy: Many people benefit from talking to a therapist about how to cope with stress, family or marital problems or other things that may trigger an episode of depression.

The importance of getting help:

If you have depression, it is important to get help immediately. There is no need to try to handle it alone. There are many people and resources in your community who are there to help with proper treatment, and therefore you can go back to enjoying your life, your family and your work within a very short time.

Related Post

How To Stay Mindful And Engaged As A Student

These days, we have so many distractions and temptations that it's hard to focus 100% of the time on learning. Smartphones and social media have made it nearly impossible for many people to disconnect and put their attention on...

Eating Disorders And The Stigmas That Come With Them

It's estimated that eating disorders affect around ten million Americans over the course of their lifetime, yet there is still so much that is misunderstood or simply not known about them. For many who suffer with these disorders, the guilt and shame that come with...

Teen Suicide Prevention: When Should You Be Concerned?

The rate of suicide in teenagers is alarmingly high, but with the societal taboo on suicide, you may be unclear which behaviors are symptoms of suicide and which are not. Regardless, if you are worried for your child's safety as a result of their behavior, it is...

Why Do You Self Injure? Is Self Injury Really The Right Solution?

This article is intended to be thought provoking and maybe a little challenging. These are difficult questions to answer for some people, easier to answer for others - but I think they are relevant questions for everyone who self injures. There's a short self help...

When Should I Have Sex?

The 'simple answer' is that you should have sex when you feel comfortable and ready to do so. But of course, life is rarely ever made sense of with the simple answers! Feelings are not always easy to understand and it can be hard to make sense of how you feel! Whether...

What is the Average Penis Size? Does Size Matter?

The age-old question, "Am I well hung?" Well, before going on to see where you stand, or should we say hang, remember that size isn’t everything. Most women prefer a man with a less then average penis and great at cunnilingus, to a man with a larger penis and no...

Alternatives to SI

Taken with permission from http://www.perfectedsouls.com/ps/si_alternatives.asp Many people try substitute activities as described above and report that sometimes they work, sometimes not. One way to increase the chances of a distraction/substitution helping calm the...

Other Methods to Avoid Cutting

Scribble on photos of people in magazines Viciously stab an orange. Throw an apple/pair of socks against the wall Have a pillow fight with the wall Scream very loudly Tear apart newspapers, photos, or magazines Go to the gym, dance, exercise Listen to music and sing...