Everyone goes through periods of deep sadness and grief. These feelings usually fade away within a few days or weeks, depending on the circumstances. But profound sadness that lasts more than two weeks and affects your ability to function may be a sign of depression.
Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more-severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn't the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder.
What Are the Main Causes of Depression?
There are a number of factors that may increase the chance of depression, including the following:
Abuse. Past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can increase the vulnerability to clinical depression later in life.
Conflict. Depression in someone who has the biological vulnerability to develop depression may result from personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends.
Death or a loss. Sadness or grief from the death or loss of a loved one, though natural, may increase the risk of depression.
Genetics. A family history of depression may increase the risk. It's thought that depression is a complex trait, meaning that there are probably many different genes that each exert small effects, rather than a single gene that contributes to disease risk. The genetics of depression, like most psychiatric disorders, are not as simple or straightforward as in purely genetic diseases such as Huntington's chorea or cystic fibrosis.
Major events. Even good events such as starting a new job, relocating, graduating, or getting married, or childbirth can lead to depression. So can a breakup, losing a job or income, getting divorced, or retiring. However, the syndrome of clinical depression is never just a "normal" response to stressful life events.
Other personal problems. Problems such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group, being in an abusive home and marriage or relationship can contribute to the risk of developing clinical depression.
Serious and chronic illnesses. Sometimes depression co-exists with a major illness or may be triggered by another medical condition e.g. HIV, Epilepsy, Heart disease etc..
Substance abuse. Nearly 30% of people with substance abuse problems particularly Alcohol misuse also have major or clinical depression. Even if drugs or alcohol temporarily make you feel better, they ultimately will aggravate depression.
Signs and symptoms of clinical depression may include:
Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Symptoms are usually severe enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships with others or in day-to-day activities, such as work, school or social activities.
Clinical depression can affect people of any age, including children. However, clinical depression symptoms, even if severe, usually improve with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two.
Depression affects everyone differently, and you might only have some of these symptoms. You may also have other symptoms that aren’t listed here. Keep in mind that it’s also normal to have some of these symptoms from time to time without having depression. But if they start to impact your day-to-day life, they may be the result of depression. There are many types of depression. While they share some common symptoms, they also have some key differences.There have been said to be different types of depression that affects people. Major depression is also known as major depressive disorder, classic depression, or unipolar depression. It’s fairly common — about 16.2 million adults in the U.S. have experienced at least one major depressive episode.
People with major depression experience symptoms most of the day, every day. Like many mental health conditions, it has little to do with what’s happening around you. You can have a loving family, tons of friends, and a dream job. You can have the kind of life that others envy and still have depression. Even if there’s no obvious reason for your depression, that doesn’t mean it’s not real or that you can simply tough it out.
Persistent depressive disorder is depression that lasts for two years or more. It’s also called dysthymia or chronic depression. Persistent depression might not feel as intense as major depression, but it can still strain relationships and make daily tasks difficult.
Though it’s a long-term type of depression, the severity of symptoms can become less intense for months at a time before worsening again. Some people also have episodes of major depression before or while they have persistent depressive disorder. This is called double depression. Persistent depression lasts for years at a time, so people with this type of depression may start to feel like their symptoms are just part of their normal outlook on life.
Some people with major depression also go through periods of losing touch with reality. This is known as psychosis, which can involve hallucinations and delusions. Experiencing both of these together is known clinically as major depressive disorder with psychotic features. However, some providers still refer to this phenomenon as depressive psychosis or psychotic depression.
Who Is at Risk for Major Depression?
Overall, between 20% and 25% of adults may suffer an episode of major depression at some point during their lifetime. Major depression also affects older adults, teens, and children, but frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated in these populations.
Are Women at Higher Risk for Major Depression?
Other factors that boost the risk of clinical depression in women who are biologically vulnerable to it include increased stress at home or at work, balancing family life with career, and caring for an aging parent. Raising a child alone will also increase the risk.
What Are the Signs of Major Depression in Men?
Depression in men is significantly underreported. Men who suffer from clinical depression are less likely to seek help or even talk about their experience, this may be directly related to the higher statistics of suicide in males compared to females
Signs of depression in men may include irritability, anger, or drug and alcohol abuse (substance abuse can also be a cause of depression rather than the result of it). Suppressing negative feelings can result in violent behavior directed both inwardly (suicide risk) and outwardly (homicide risk).
What Triggers Major Depression?
In some people, the only identifiable risk factor, is having a family history of Depression,
Some other common triggers of major depression include:
Loss of a loved one through death, divorce, or separation
Social isolation or feelings of being deprived, financial constraints
Major life changes -- moving, graduation, job change, retirement, academic challenges,
Personal conflicts in relationships, either with a significant other or a superior
Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or emotional neglect
How Is Major Depression Treated?
Major or clinical depression is a serious but treatable illness. Depending on the severity of symptoms, your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist may recommend treatment with an antidepressant medication. They may also suggest psychotherapy, or talk therapy, in which you address your stressors and learn coping mechanisms to navigate them.