What Exactly is Depression, and How Can I Treat It?

At times, sadness and devastation can affect everyone. Depression, on the other hand, is characterized by a persistent sense of emptiness, sadness, or a lack of pleasure that may appear to be unrelated to anything. It is not the same as grief or any other feelings a person might experience after difficult life events.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability globally.

It can harm a person's relationships, make it hard to work and keep their health good, and in severe cases, it can even lead to suicide. Depression is a factor in nearly 40,000 suicides that occur annually in the United States.

It can affect children, teens, and adults. This article examines the definition of depression, its causes, various types, treatment options, and others.

What is Depression?

Depression is a temperament problem that causes continuous sensations of bitterness, emptiness, and loss of happiness. It's not like the mood swings that everyone goes through on a regular basis.

Depression can be brought on by significant life events like a death in the family or the loss of a job. Nevertheless, Depression is unmistakable from the gloomy sentiments an individual may briefly have in light of a troublesome life-altering situation.

Intense, persistent, and unrelated to a person's circumstances, depression frequently persists despite a change in circumstances.

Major depressive disorder is the most prevalent form of depression, but there are other types as well. It has symptoms that last at least two weeks

Depression can last for months, years, or even a few weeks. For some individuals, it is an ongoing sickness that gets better and afterward relapses.

Is Depression Curable?

Although depression cannot be cured, there are effective treatments that can assist in recovery. The likelihood of treatment success increases with time. After one attack of depression, some people may never again experience it. Relapses will continue for others.

A treatment plan can help many people who are depressed. However, a relapse may occur despite effective treatment. About half of people don't respond to treatment right away.

People who take medication for depression should continue treatment for as long as their doctor tells them to, even if their symptoms get better or go away, to avoid relapsing.

Signs and symptoms Depression can result in a variety of mental and physical symptoms. A person may be diagnosed with depression if they exhibit five or more of the following symptoms in the same two-week period:

  • Persistent depressive mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities;
  • Abnormally slow or agitated movements
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
    Other symptoms of depression include restlessness, headaches, irritability, chronic pain, and digestive issues.

Types of Depression

Depressive disorders can take many different forms. Some of the most common kinds are listed below.

Major Depression

A person who suffers from major depression is constantly sad. They might no longer be interested in the things they used to like. Psychotherapy and medication are typically part of the treatment.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Dysthymia, another name for persistent depressive disorder, is characterized by symptoms that last for at least two years.

In addition to milder symptoms that do not meet the criteria for major depressive disorder, a person with this disorder may experience episodes of major depression.

Postpartum Depression

Some people experience the "baby blues," a brief period of sadness or heightened emotions after giving birth. Within a few days to a few weeks, this typically goes away. The more severe form of postnatal depression is postpartum depression.

This kind of depression can last for months or years and has no single cause. After giving birth, anyone who continues to experience depression should seek medical attention.

Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern

Previously recognized as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this kind of depression typically happens throughout the fall and winter months, when there is less sunlight. It might follow other seasonal patterns less frequently.

It diminishes in response to light therapy and during the remainder of the year. People who reside in nations with prolonged or severe winters appear to be particularly affected by this condition.

Causes of Depression

Depression's root causes are poorly understood by medical professionals. There are numerous potential causes, and sometimes multiple factors come together to cause symptoms.

The following factors are likely to be involved:

  • Genetic characteristics
  • Changes in the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain
  • Environmental factors like trauma or a lack of social support
  • Psychological and social factors,
  • Additional conditions like bipolar disorder

A person who has a history of depression in their family or genetic risk, for instance, experiences symptoms of depression following a traumatic event.

Depressive symptoms can include:

  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Slowed movement and speech
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • A loss of sexual desire
  • Changes in appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Sleeping too much or too little

A Note about Gender and Sex

Sex and gender exist on ranges or spectrums referred to as "male," "female," or both in this article.

In Females

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that female depression is nearly twice as common as male depression. Why females seem to experience depression more frequently is a mystery to researchers.

However, disparities in reporting may be to blame, according to a 2021 study. Females were found to be more likely than males to report and seek treatment for depression symptoms, according to the research.

Gender discrimination may increase depression risk, according to some research. Additionally, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and postpartum depression are two forms of depression that are exclusively female-specific.

In Males

5.5% of males and 10.4% of females in the National Health and Nutrition study, which depends on self-reports of mental health symptoms, report experiencing depression in a given two-week period.

As a result of the disorder, men with depression are more likely than women to drink excessively, exhibit rage, and engage in risks.

Other male depression symptoms include the following:

  • Staying away from family and social circumstances
  • Working without a break
  • Experiencing issues staying aware of work and family obligations
  • Showing oppressive or controlling conduct in connections
In College Students

Time at school can be distressing, and an individual might be managing different ways of life, cultures, and encounters interestingly.

Some students have trouble adapting to these shifts, which may lead to depression, anxiety, or both. College students may exhibit the following signs of depression:
• Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork
• Insomnia
• Excessive sleeping
• A decrease or increase in appetite.

In Teens

Physical changes, peer pressure, plus other factors can cause depression in teens. They may also avoid social situations and activities that they used to enjoy. Some of the signs and symptoms they may experience include:
• Being irritable
• Being restless
• Withdrawing from friends and family
• Having trouble concentrating on schoolwork
• Feeling guilty, helpless, or worthless

In Children

According to the CDC, 4.4% of children and teenagers between the ages of 3 and 17 in the United States have been diagnosed with depression. In recent years, this number has increased.

Children who are depressed can have trouble with schoolwork and social activities. They might exhibit symptoms like:
• Crying
• Low energy
• Vocal outbursts
• Clinginess
• Defiant behavior

Younger children may have trouble expressing their emotions verbally. They may find it more difficult to express their sadness as a result of this.

Major Depression in Marginalized Groups

Major depression is more common in African Americans (10.4%), compared to 17.9% among white people, according to research.

Moreover, 56% of African Americans experience Depression chronically, contrasted with 38.6% of whites. This suggests that, despite the fact that fewer African Americans may experience depression, those who do may do so for a longer period of time. Furthermore, only about half of these African Americans have sought treatment.

Other studies have shown that non-Hispanic white people are more likely than African Americans to experience depression, but this may be because many African Americans do not always have a correct diagnosis.


Emotional, psychological, or physical events or circumstances that can bring about the onset or recurrence of depression symptoms are known as triggers.

These risk factors include:
• Stressful life events like loss, family disputes, and shifts in relationships
• Incomplete recovery after stopping depression treatment too soon
• Medical conditions, particularly a medical crisis like a new diagnosis or a chronic illness like diabetes or heart disease.

Depression as a Symptom

Depression can as well happen as a symptom or comorbidity with another mental health condition. It can also occur as a symptom or comorbidity with another mental health condition. Some examples are:

Psychotic Depression

Psychosis can cause delusions like false beliefs and a disconnect from reality. It may also involve hallucinations, which are sensations of things that are not there.

Psychosis can accompany depression in some people. Psychosis is a serious mental illness that can cause depression in people who suffer from it.

On the other hand, a person who suffers from depression may also exhibit psychotic symptoms in a severe form.

Bipolar Disorder

Depression is one of the most common signs of bipolar disorder. Depression can last for several weeks in people with bipolar disorder. They also go through mania, which is a high mood that can make a person feel very happy, aggressive, or out of control.


Depression is treatable, but the type of treatment a person receives may vary. On the other hand, approximately 30.9% of people either do not respond to treatment or respond poorly. Within a year, about 4 in 10 people experience symptom relief, but depression can return.

Symptom management typically involves three components:

  • Support: This can include educating family members and discussing practical solutions and potential causes.
  • Psychotherapy: One-on-one counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), also known as talking therapy, are two options.
  • Drug Treatment: Antidepressants may be prescribed by a doctor.


Antidepressants can be used to treat mild to moderate depression. There are several types of antidepressants available:

  • Atypical antidepressants
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are all members of this class. An individual ought to just accept these prescriptions as their primary care physician endorses. Some drugs can take some time to work. A person may not reap the drug's potential benefits if they stop taking it.

After their symptoms improve, some people stop taking their medications, but this can result in a relapse.
Any concerns about antidepressants, including plans to stop taking them, should be discussed with a doctor.

Side Effects of Medications

SSRIs and SNRIs can cause side effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that manufacturers include a "black box" warning on antidepressant bottles to prevent side effects such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea, low blood sugar, weight loss or gain, a rash, and sexual dysfunction.

Within the first few months of treatment, these medications may, among other risks, increase suicidal thoughts or behaviors in some children, adolescents, and young adults, according to the warning. Even though there is more risk, there is still little risk overall.

Natural Remedies

Natural remedies, such as herbal medicines, are sometimes used to treat mild to moderate depression. However, manufacturers may lie about the quality of these products because the FDA does not monitor herbal remedies. They might not be safe or work.

45 percent of studies in a 2018 systematic review of herbal treatments for depression reported positive outcomes, including fewer side effects than with standard antidepressants.

Coming up next are a portion of the more well-known spices and plants that individuals use to treat despondency:

Before taking any kind of herbal remedy or supplement to treat depression, it is essential to consult a doctor. Some herbs can make symptoms worse or interfere with how drugs work.


Herbs can be taken as supplements to treat mild to moderate depression symptoms. These symptoms can also be treated with other kinds of supplements.

It is critical to recall that the FDA doesn't screen supplements to guarantee that they are successful or safe.

S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), a synthetic form of a natural chemical in the body, is one nonherbal supplement that may help treat depression. They also contain 5-hydroxytryptophan, which has the potential to boost serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that affects mood.

SAMe may be as effective as prescription antidepressants imipramine and escitalopram, according to some research; however, additional research is required.

Diet and Food

Additionally, the study found that eating more of the following foods helped alleviate symptoms of depression:

Some studies suggest that eating a lot of sugary or processed foods can cause a variety of health issues, including mental health issues. A study done in 2019 found that eating a lot of these kinds of foods can have an effect on young adults' mental health.

  • Fish
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit


CBT, interpersonal psychotherapy, and treatment for problem-solving are examples of talking therapies for depression.

Psychotherapy is usually the first line of treatment for some kinds of depression, but for some people, psychotherapy and medication work better together.

The two main types of psychotherapy for depression are cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy. CBT can be done in one-on-one sessions with a therapist, in groups, by phone, or online.

The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is to help a person understand how their thoughts, actions, and feelings are connected. They then persevere in their efforts to alter negative thoughts and actions.

The goal of interpersonal therapy is to help people figure out:
• Emotional issues that affect relationships and communication
• How these issues also affect their mood
• How to improve relationships and better manage emotions


Aerobic exercise raises endorphin levels and stimulates neurotransmitters, potentially alleviating depression and anxiety. According to a 2019 study, exercise may be especially helpful for depression that resists treatment.

When exercise is combined with standard treatments like psychotherapy and antidepressants, the benefits are greatest.

Brain Stimulation Therapies

Brain simulation therapies are another treatment choice. For instance, transcranial magnetic stimulation, which delivers magnetic pulses to the brain on a regular basis, may aid in the treatment of major depression.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be beneficial for a person with depression who does not respond to drug treatment. ECT is poorly understood by medical professionals.

A person is asleep during the procedure, and a doctor uses electricity to cause a seizure. This may assist in "resetting" the brain, resolving neurotransmitter or other depression-causing issues.


If a person has any signs or symptoms of depression, they should see a doctor or mental health specialist for help.

A trained medical professional is able to rule out a variety of causes, guarantee an accurate diagnosis, and provide treatment that is both safe and efficient.

They will inquire about symptoms, including the duration of their presence. A doctor may also order a blood test to rule out other health conditions and conduct an examination to look for physical causes.


Mental health professionals frequently request that individuals fill out questionnaires to assist in determining the severity of their depression.

There are 21 questions on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, for instance. The scores show how severe depression is among people who have already been diagnosed.

Another questionnaire that helps mental health professionals measure a person's symptoms is the Beck Depression Inventory.

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