What is Depression?

This week’s post is the start of a 5 week series where I will discuss some of the most common mental health disorders. Here’s the lineup for the next few weeks:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • ADHD
  • Panic disorder

Major Depressive Disorder

It’s no secret that everyone feels sad sometimes. Major depressive disorder is what occurs when sadness begins to take a toll on how your body functions, your emotions, and your relationships.

Major depressive disorder is considered a mood disorder and it is characterized by some of the following symptoms:

  • Low mood (severe sadness)
  • Loss of interest in things that once brought joy
  • Hopelessness
  • Crying spells
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in appetite
  • Decreased motor functioning (slow moving)
  • Fatigue
  • Diminished concentration
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Thoughts about death or suicide

If a person experiences 5 or more of the aforementioned symptoms daily for at least two weeks, then they probably meet the clinical criteria for major depressive disorder (unless the symptoms are due to normal grief from a major loss).

The severity of depression can vary from mild to severe. It can happen as a single episode or can be recurrent over a long period of time. Some people with depression experience anxiety (known as depression with anxious distress) or may have depression with psychotic features (hallucinations or delusions). Other versions include postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder.


If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, consider the following:

  • Talk to your doctor about medication
  • Find a therapist to talk to.
  • Call a close friend or family member.
  • Call a hotline such as 1.800.273.TALK (United States)
  • If you’re feeling suicidal, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for help.

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