What is depression? Causes and symptoms


1st Jan 2015 Wellbeing

What is depression? Causes and symptoms
If you're depressed, you're not alone. Neither do you have to let depression control your life. For severe, chronic depression, there are effective prescription medications as well as various forms of therapy. For mild to moderate depression that comes and goes, there are plenty of strategies for you to try out on your own.
What did Ludwig van Beethoven, Winston Churchill and Vincent van Gogh have in common? They all, at one time or another, suffered from depression.

Severe depression

A divorce, a death, a move or a career change can give you temporary feelings of sadness, as you experience a loss or confront new challenges. Almost everyone experiences a mild depression at some point in life. But if your sadness lasts more than 2 weeks, or is accompanied by sleep and appetite changes (eating and sleeping too much or not at all), loss of interest in sex and a reduced ability to concentrate, the chances are that you need treatment. Your doctor will be able to advise whether you need psychotherapy, medication or both.

How Can You Tell If You Are Depressed?

Perhaps you've experienced a traumatic event. Or maybe, for no reason you can put your finger on, you just feel sad and empty.  As previously discussed, there are different types of depression including major depression, in which the emotional low is severe and lasts for more than 2 weeks; mild depression, or dysthymia, which has milder or fewer symptoms; bipolar disorder, which causes extreme mood swings (manic depression); and post-natal depression, which sometimes affects women after giving birth. These are signs of depression. If you suspect you may be suffering from depression assess each of these symptoms on a scale of 1-4 in ascending severity.
  • Waking in the early hours and being unable to get back to sleep
  • Problems sleeping or sleeping excessively
  • Loss of energy or fatigue: ‘tired all the time’
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Being in a sad mood most days
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Lack of interest in pleasurable activities or sexual activity, or both
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
If you scored yourself 3-4 on most you are likely to be suffering severe depression which may be resolved over time with the help of your doctor. 
If you think you may be depressed, see your doctor. Depression isn't merely a mental state; it's often linked to chemical imbalances that can be corrected with medication and lifestyle adjustments. For mild to moderate depression, try our suggested remedies.