What Is Depression?
Clinical depression is a medical condition that is related to neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain. These neurotransmitters play diverse roles, regulating mood, responsiveness to stimuli, appetite and more, which is why depression can take different forms and have different symptoms. Some people with depression tend to eat less, sleep more, and feel fatigued, while others tend to experience increases in appetite, insomnia, agitation, and anxiousness.
The severity of depression can vary significantly from person to person. Some people suffer from a relatively mild but chronic form of depression called dysthymia, which is usually not disabling, but can make it extremely difficult to find pleasure in normal activities, and cause feelings of sadness and emptiness that may persist for years. People with major depression may experience a single episode, or recurring episodes. In most cases, each episode will end by itself, with or without treatment, but can last up to six months.
Recognizing the Signs of Depression
Nearly everyone has experienced a time when it hardly seems worth the effort to get out of bed, or when the problems they face seem so overwhelming that they’re not sure where to begin. Let’s face it, life can be difficult and depressing, and feeling sad, overwhelmed, guilty, or hopeless is a normal human response during those times.
It isn’t always easy to tell when normal reactions to difficult situations (grief, sadness, etc.) have crossed the line towards clinical depression that needs treatment. However, the number of signs or symptoms you are experiencing, along with the duration and frequency you have them are all important. You are probably dealing with clinical depression if you have experienced five or more of the following symptoms, and at least one of them is among the first two listed, nearly every day for two weeks or more:
- Loss of interest in things you normally enjoy.
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
- Feeling worthless or guilty.
- Problems falling asleep, staying asleep, waking too early or sleeping too much.
- Unexplained decrease or increase in appetite, resulting in weight gain or loss within the last month.
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, remembering, and making decisions.
- Extreme tiredness or lack of energy that interferes with your ability to work or take care of your daily responsibilities.
- Feeling restless, unable to sit still, or abnormally slow when moving.
If you do find yourself struggling with depression, know that things are not nearly as hopeless as they may seem to you. If you can reach out and ask for help, you can find yourself back on the road to recovery and wellness very soon.
Depression is a real medical condition, not the result of weak character or a defective personality. Many people are reluctant to talk about their difficulties or seek treatment out of embarrassment or shame, but there is nothing to be ashamed about, and medical professionals should not be judgmental about the problems you are experiencing.With medical treatment, many feel substantial relief in 4-6 weeks.