What Is Depression?

By definition, depression is “a mental condition characterized by feelings of severe despondency and dejection, typically also with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by a lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep.” In summary, depression is a disorder that feels like it’s taking over your entire mind, as it affects all aspects of your life. Depression is not a brief period of sadness, rather it’s an extended period of distress. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must remain for at least two weeks.

What Causes Depression?

The onset of depression is brought about for a variety of reasons. Depression is not a selective disorder and many people are at risk for developing it. It’s a myth that people with healthy and happy lives don’t struggle with depression. People struggling are often good at putting up a front or putting on a happy face.

Brain chemistry, genetics, personality type, and external environmental factors all play an equal contributing role in the formation of depression. Depression can also be brought on from a traumatic experience such as losing a loved one. There is not one sole cause of depression, and the disorder doesn’t pick out just one type of person to inflict.

What Are The Signs/Symptoms of Depression?

From mental to physical, the signs of depression run the gamut:

  • A Lack of interest in things you once loved
  • Mood swings
  • Severe sadness
  • Disruption in sleep patterns
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Reckless behavior
  • Low self-esteem/suicidal thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Stomach pains/digestive problems
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Migraines/headaches

The Importance of Understanding Depression

Because of its multifaceted layers, it’s important to maintain at least a general overview of depression. Knowledge is power and, like many other things, in order to tackle it, you need to understand it.

It’s important to understand WHAT exactly depression is along with the signs and symptoms in order to know whether or not you struggle with it. For instance, many people don’t realize that in order to be officially diagnosed, the symptoms of depression need to be present for two weeks. Often times, people who don’t struggle with depression try to relate to people who do. They’ll do so by making statements about experiencing sadness or feeling down every once in a while. While they have good intentions, there’s a big difference between feeling sad and being diagnosed with depression. Their advice will probably not be useful because they don’t truly understand what you’re going through.

It’s also critical to understand the root causes of depression because, like any physical disorder, it’s helpful to know where your pain stems from. Some people who come from a more privileged lifestyle feel guilty or are made to feel guilty for struggling with depression. While environmental factors do play a role in some cases of depression, it isn’t a requirement. Depression is often times a result of your brain chemistry and the way your brain is wired. There is no amount of “good fortune” that could ever change that.

Recognizing the statistics of depression is crucial because it can help those who struggle feel less alone. Depression is already an incredibly isolating disorder, so to know you aren’t struggling by yourself can be extremely comforting. This is also important to recognize because it will play a role in treating depression. Often times there’s a stigma centered around mental health. Don’t let this stigma prevent you from seeking therapy and getting the help you need! Like any physical ailment, depression deserves to be appropriately treated as well.