Warning Signs of Depression
Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods.
True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer.
In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) to mark World Mental Health Day, writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone tells the story of overcoming the “black dog of depression” via the video on this page.
Causes & Risk Factors
The exact cause of depression is not known. Many researchers believe it is caused by chemical changes in the brain. This may be due to our genes or triggered by certain stressful events. More than likely, it’s a combination of both.
Some types of depression run in families. But depression can also occur if you have no family history of the illness. Anyone can develop depression, even children.
In general, treatments for depression include:
- Talk therapy, called psychotherapy
- Medications called antidepressants
If you have mild depression, you may only need one of these treatments. People with more severe depression usually need a combination of both treatments. It takes time to feel better, but there are usually day-to-day improvements.
If you are suicidal or extremely depressed and cannot function you may need to be treated in a psychiatric hospital.
The following may play a role in depression:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Certain medical conditions, including under-active thyroid, cancer, or long-term pain
- Certain medications, such as steroids
- Sleeping problems
- Stressful life events, such as:
- A relationship breakup
- Death or illness of someone close to you
- Childhood abuse or neglect
- Job loss
- Failing a class
- Social isolation (common in the elderly)
Depression can change or distort the way you see yourself, your life and those around you.
People who have depression usually see everything with a more negative attitude. They cannot imagine that any problem or situation can be solved in a positive way.
Symptoms of depression can include:
- Agitation, restlessness and irritability
- Becoming withdrawn or isolated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate and guilt
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Trouble sleeping or too much sleeping
Depression can appear as anger and discouragement, rather than feelings of sadness.
People who are depressed are more likely to use alcohol or illegal substances.
Complications of depression also include:
- Increased risk of health problems
If you have thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others, immediately call your local emergency number (such as 911) or go to the hospital emergency room.
You may also call a suicide hotline from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-999-9999.