Depression: What Is It?

Reviewed May 15, 2017

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

  • Depression can take different forms.
  • Depression is treatable.

Depression is a word that can mean different things. The meaning depends on how the word is used. Most of us feel “down” or “blue” some days. You might say you are “depressed” when you are upset, angry, or sad about something. For many people, though, depression is much worse than having a bad day. More than one in 20 adults have this more serious and lasting depression at any given time. When depression hangs on for a long time and includes symptoms in addition to low mood, we call it a disorder or illness. 
 
The illness of depression lasts more than two weeks at a time. If you have depression in this way, which is called major depressive disorder, you usually feel low every day. You sleep badly. Food does not taste as good to you. You do not have enough energy to do your usual chores. Depression makes you lose interest in things you used to like. It is hard to concentrate. You can feel nervous or “out of it.” You might wish you were dead. Depression is one of the main reasons that people kill themselves. When depression is especially bad, with what are called “psychotic features,” you might even hear voices that other people do not hear.

Depression can take different forms

The illness of depression can take different forms. The way it looks depends on who is depressed. Children, for example, may not know how to talk about feeling depressed. They might show it instead with their behavior. They might cry more or get into more fights, or not do their schoolwork as well as they once did. Older people who may not be able to remember or think properly, too, might show depression with upsetting behavior. 

Some people with depression get better and worse over days instead of staying depressed for weeks at a time. This kind of depression can be just as bad as the kind that lasts. The depression keeps coming back and that can be frustrating and painful. Some adults with this kind of depression eat more instead of less, and sleep more instead of less. If your depression is like this, you may think it is due to some disappointing thing in your life. This kind of depression, though, is more than a reaction to things in your life. This pattern of feeling better and worse all the time sometimes means that you have the illness of depression.

Some people who get depressed may not need much sleep. They get very busy. They may spend too much money. Sometimes they do risky or strange things. Severe behavior like this is called manic. People who get depressed and manic can have manic depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. That is a different type of mood issue. The treatments are not the same. Treating someone who is bipolar like someone with depression can be the wrong way to go.

Depression is treatable

If you do not treat depression, it might go away on its own. But it often stays the same or gets worse. This is dangerous because depression that lasts can affect a person’s health badly. It can take the fun out of life. It can make it hard or impossible to hold a job. It can put lots of stress on relationships. It can even lead to earlier death, from suicide or sickness.

But depression is very treatable. Talking to a trained therapist can really help. For people who need medication, there are now lots of good choices. Making healthy lifestyle choices, too, is helpful. Getting enough sleep, exercise, good food, and time with people is very important for helping depression. It is also important to reduce stress and make time for fun.

If you have depression that is serious, please make sure you talk with someone about how to get the help you need.

By James M. Ellison, MD, MPH
Source: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. Text Revision. Washington, D. C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2000; 2000; 343:1942–1950; Lawrence J, Davidoff DA, Kennedy JS, et al. Diagnosing depression in later life. In Ellison JM, Kyomen HH, Verma S. Mood Disorders in Later Life. Second Edition. Informa Healthcare. Informa Healthcare, 2007. pp 1-14.
Reviewed by Mario Testani, MD, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Depression can take different forms.
  • Depression is treatable.

Depression is a word that can mean different things. The meaning depends on how the word is used. Most of us feel “down” or “blue” some days. You might say you are “depressed” when you are upset, angry, or sad about something. For many people, though, depression is much worse than having a bad day. More than one in 20 adults have this more serious and lasting depression at any given time. When depression hangs on for a long time and includes symptoms in addition to low mood, we call it a disorder or illness. 
 
The illness of depression lasts more than two weeks at a time. If you have depression in this way, which is called major depressive disorder, you usually feel low every day. You sleep badly. Food does not taste as good to you. You do not have enough energy to do your usual chores. Depression makes you lose interest in things you used to like. It is hard to concentrate. You can feel nervous or “out of it.” You might wish you were dead. Depression is one of the main reasons that people kill themselves. When depression is especially bad, with what are called “psychotic features,” you might even hear voices that other people do not hear.

Depression can take different forms

The illness of depression can take different forms. The way it looks depends on who is depressed. Children, for example, may not know how to talk about feeling depressed. They might show it instead with their behavior. They might cry more or get into more fights, or not do their schoolwork as well as they once did. Older people who may not be able to remember or think properly, too, might show depression with upsetting behavior. 

Some people with depression get better and worse over days instead of staying depressed for weeks at a time. This kind of depression can be just as bad as the kind that lasts. The depression keeps coming back and that can be frustrating and painful. Some adults with this kind of depression eat more instead of less, and sleep more instead of less. If your depression is like this, you may think it is due to some disappointing thing in your life. This kind of depression, though, is more than a reaction to things in your life. This pattern of feeling better and worse all the time sometimes means that you have the illness of depression.

Some people who get depressed may not need much sleep. They get very busy. They may spend too much money. Sometimes they do risky or strange things. Severe behavior like this is called manic. People who get depressed and manic can have manic depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. That is a different type of mood issue. The treatments are not the same. Treating someone who is bipolar like someone with depression can be the wrong way to go.

Depression is treatable

If you do not treat depression, it might go away on its own. But it often stays the same or gets worse. This is dangerous because depression that lasts can affect a person’s health badly. It can take the fun out of life. It can make it hard or impossible to hold a job. It can put lots of stress on relationships. It can even lead to earlier death, from suicide or sickness.

But depression is very treatable. Talking to a trained therapist can really help. For people who need medication, there are now lots of good choices. Making healthy lifestyle choices, too, is helpful. Getting enough sleep, exercise, good food, and time with people is very important for helping depression. It is also important to reduce stress and make time for fun.

If you have depression that is serious, please make sure you talk with someone about how to get the help you need.

By James M. Ellison, MD, MPH
Source: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. Text Revision. Washington, D. C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2000; 2000; 343:1942–1950; Lawrence J, Davidoff DA, Kennedy JS, et al. Diagnosing depression in later life. In Ellison JM, Kyomen HH, Verma S. Mood Disorders in Later Life. Second Edition. Informa Healthcare. Informa Healthcare, 2007. pp 1-14.
Reviewed by Mario Testani, MD, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Depression can take different forms.
  • Depression is treatable.

Depression is a word that can mean different things. The meaning depends on how the word is used. Most of us feel “down” or “blue” some days. You might say you are “depressed” when you are upset, angry, or sad about something. For many people, though, depression is much worse than having a bad day. More than one in 20 adults have this more serious and lasting depression at any given time. When depression hangs on for a long time and includes symptoms in addition to low mood, we call it a disorder or illness. 
 
The illness of depression lasts more than two weeks at a time. If you have depression in this way, which is called major depressive disorder, you usually feel low every day. You sleep badly. Food does not taste as good to you. You do not have enough energy to do your usual chores. Depression makes you lose interest in things you used to like. It is hard to concentrate. You can feel nervous or “out of it.” You might wish you were dead. Depression is one of the main reasons that people kill themselves. When depression is especially bad, with what are called “psychotic features,” you might even hear voices that other people do not hear.

Depression can take different forms

The illness of depression can take different forms. The way it looks depends on who is depressed. Children, for example, may not know how to talk about feeling depressed. They might show it instead with their behavior. They might cry more or get into more fights, or not do their schoolwork as well as they once did. Older people who may not be able to remember or think properly, too, might show depression with upsetting behavior. 

Some people with depression get better and worse over days instead of staying depressed for weeks at a time. This kind of depression can be just as bad as the kind that lasts. The depression keeps coming back and that can be frustrating and painful. Some adults with this kind of depression eat more instead of less, and sleep more instead of less. If your depression is like this, you may think it is due to some disappointing thing in your life. This kind of depression, though, is more than a reaction to things in your life. This pattern of feeling better and worse all the time sometimes means that you have the illness of depression.

Some people who get depressed may not need much sleep. They get very busy. They may spend too much money. Sometimes they do risky or strange things. Severe behavior like this is called manic. People who get depressed and manic can have manic depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. That is a different type of mood issue. The treatments are not the same. Treating someone who is bipolar like someone with depression can be the wrong way to go.

Depression is treatable

If you do not treat depression, it might go away on its own. But it often stays the same or gets worse. This is dangerous because depression that lasts can affect a person’s health badly. It can take the fun out of life. It can make it hard or impossible to hold a job. It can put lots of stress on relationships. It can even lead to earlier death, from suicide or sickness.

But depression is very treatable. Talking to a trained therapist can really help. For people who need medication, there are now lots of good choices. Making healthy lifestyle choices, too, is helpful. Getting enough sleep, exercise, good food, and time with people is very important for helping depression. It is also important to reduce stress and make time for fun.

If you have depression that is serious, please make sure you talk with someone about how to get the help you need.

By James M. Ellison, MD, MPH
Source: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. Text Revision. Washington, D. C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2000; 2000; 343:1942–1950; Lawrence J, Davidoff DA, Kennedy JS, et al. Diagnosing depression in later life. In Ellison JM, Kyomen HH, Verma S. Mood Disorders in Later Life. Second Edition. Informa Healthcare. Informa Healthcare, 2007. pp 1-14.
Reviewed by Mario Testani, MD, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.