What Is Depression? How to Deal with Depression?

What Is Depression? How to Deal with Depression?
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 31-03-2023

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Depression is a word that often gets used in the wrong context. The general usage of this word is used to describe someone who doesn't want to do things or is feeling sad for a short duration.  

Depression is one of the most common clinical mental disorders. It is classified as a mood disorder in DSM-V. Depression is an extremely widespread and serious mental disorder, with 50 million people having depression worldwide. 

Signs and symptoms of Depression

Depression is a mental disorder that can cause a range of emotional and physical symptoms. The symptoms include:

  1. Low or depressed mood  
  2. Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyable 
  3. An increase or decrease in appetite 
  4. Changes in weight, meaning you can either lose a lot of weight or gain a lot of weight in a short period of time.  
  5. Changes in sleep schedules lead to either insomnia or hypersomnia.  
  6. Loss of energy or feeling fatigued.  
  7. Unable to concentrate 
  8. Feelings of worthlessness and guilt 
  9. Suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideation 

As per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), the diagnosis of Clinical Depression or Major Depressive Disorder requires five or more of these symptoms to be present within a 2-week period.  

Types of depression

Depression is a mental health condition that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. It can range from mild to severe and can have a significant impact on a person's life. There are several different types of depression, each with its own set of symptoms, causes, and treatments. Knowing the different types of depression can help you better understand the condition and seek appropriate help if needed.  

1. Major Depressive Disorder

A major depressive disorder is usually referred to as a clinical depression. It can be diagnosed when depressive symptoms last every day for a period of two weeks or longer. The symptoms include worthlessness, loss of pleasure, fatigue, and the presence of suicidal thoughts or self-harm tendencies. In particular, the person may experience a low mood and a loss of interest in activities. 

2. Persistent depressive disorder

When the symptoms of major depressive disorder last for 2 years or longer, the individual can be diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD).  Usually, an individual is diagnosed with major depression, and after 2 years when the symptoms still persist, the individual can be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder. PDD can affect a person’s day-to-day life and it can vary from individual to individual. Major depressive episodes may occur during persistent depressive disorder. During the 2-year period, an individual can have symptom-free intervals lasting no longer than 2 months. The depressed mood experienced in PDD is not as severe as major depressive disorder, but there are feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of pleasure. 

3. Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. It is characterized by episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to weeks or even months. An individual may feel a long duration of ups and then longer periods of feeling low and depressed. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can include changes in sleep patterns, irritability, impulsiveness, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts. Bipolar can be of two types- Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2. The main difference lies in the severity of manic episodes in both these types.

Treatment for bipolar disorder typically involves medication and psychotherapy to help manage symptoms. 

4. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons, usually in the winter months. People suffering from SAD can notice that their symptoms begin and last during the same period every year. 10 % of people suffering from SAD can show symptoms of depression in the summer months. It is caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors, such as decreased sunlight exposure and changes in hormone levels. Symptoms of SAD can include mood swings, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and social withdrawal.  

Fortunately, there are treatments available to help manage SAD symptoms such as light therapy and psychotherapy. With proper treatment, people with SAD can enjoy life during the winter months without feeling overwhelmed or depressed. 

5. Postpartum depression 

Postpartum depression is a condition that affects many new mothers after giving birth. It can have a negative impact on the mother’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Symptoms of postpartum depression include feelings of sadness, guilt, anxiety, and exhaustion. Women who suffer from postpartum depression may also experience difficulty bonding with their babies and difficulty managing daily tasks. The cause of postpartum depression is often attributed to the dramatic hormonal changes that follow childbirth. The symptoms of postpartum depression may start in the first few weeks following childbirth and can emerge at any time during the baby’s first year. 

Postpartum depression is treatable with the help of medical professionals such as psychologists or psychiatrists. Treatment usually involves therapy, medication, or both depending on the individual's needs. Support from family and friends can also be beneficial in helping a woman cope with postpartum depression. 

6. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that affects many women during their menstrual cycle. PMDD is characterized by intense mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, and other physical symptoms that can significantly interfere with daily life. While the exact cause of PMDD is unknown, it is believed to be related to hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle. Treatment options for PMDD include lifestyle changes, medications, and psychotherapy. It is important for women who experience PMDD to seek treatment in order to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. 

7. Psychotic depression

Psychotic depression is a severe form of depression that is characterized by the presence of psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are characterized by disorganized thinking or behavior and false beliefs whereas hallucinations are characterized by false sights or sounds. It can cause significant emotional distress and interfere with a person s ability to function. The early signs of psychosis include intense and inappropriate emotions, withdrawing socially, suspicion of others, trouble thinking clearly, a decline in personal hygiene, and a drop in performance at work or school. Treatment for psychotic depression typically involves both psychotherapy and medication, as well as lifestyle changes. Treatment can help to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. 

What causes depression?

Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including:  

  • Genetics 
  • Brain chemistry 
  • Major life events 
  • Environmental factors such as stress and trauma, 
  • Psychological factors such as low self-esteem or negative thinking patterns 
  • Death or loss of a loved one 
  • Substance misuse 

While there is no single cause for depression, understanding the potential triggers can help individuals manage and treat their condition more effectively.  

How is depression treated?

Depression can have a significant impact on daily life functioning. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments available to help people with depression manage their symptoms and lead productive lives. Treatment for depression typically involves psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of these approaches. By understanding the various treatment options available for depression, individuals can work with their healthcare provider to find the best approach for their individual needs. A therapist may use a mix of CBT, Interpersonal Therapy, and Psychodynamic therapy, whereas a psychiatrist will use a mix of medications and dosages based on the client's needs which will target norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain.  

Depression Symptoms in Women 

Women are more likely to experience depression than men, and the symptoms can be both physical and psychological. Depression in women can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including feelings of hopelessness, sadness, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and thoughts of suicide. Pregnancy, menstrual cycles, labor, and menopause can be some of the gender-specific causes of depression. Some behavior symptoms can be crying, decreased appetite, and high suicidal ideation but low rates of suicidal completion.  

Depression Symptoms in Men

Depression is a serious mental disorder that can affect anyone, regardless of gender. However, men may show different symptoms than women when experiencing depression. It is important to be aware of these symptoms in order to recognize and treat depression in men. Common symptoms of depression in men include feelings of hopelessness, irritability, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and thoughts of suicide. Other physical signs can also indicate depression such as fatigue or headaches. Common emotional symptoms can include anger, irritability, and restlessness. Some cognitive symptoms include obsessive-compulsive thought patterns, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and racing thoughts.  

When to see a psychologist?

Depression can have a profound impact on your life if left untreated. If you are feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, or having difficulty functioning in your daily life, it may be time to seek professional help. A doctor can diagnose and treat depression effectively, helping you to feel better and get back to living your life. Knowing when to see a doctor for depression can be difficult; however, there are certain signs and symptoms that should prompt you to take action. These include persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, changes in appetite or weight loss/gain, lack of energy and motivation, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and thoughts of death or suicide. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms for more than two weeks it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible.

When to seek emergency help?

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to reach out for help as soon as possible. Emergency help should be sought if you are feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and unable to cope with your feelings or if you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide. It is also important to get help if your depression symptoms have been getting worse over time, or if they have been persistent and interfering with your daily life for more than two weeks. Seeking professional help can provide relief from the pain and suffering associated with depression, as well as help you develop strategies for managing it in the future. 


Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders. It affects your mood and may cause loss of interest in activities, changes in weight and aptitude, shift in sleep cycles, loss of energy, and suicidal thoughts. There can be differences in the symptoms of depression in men and women. There are many types of depression with the most common being major depressive disorder. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression so that it can be treated as soon as possible. The treatment may vary from person to person and their needs and life history.

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1.    WHO. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/

2.    American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Depressive disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

3.    World Health Organization (1993). Mood (affective) disorders. In International classification of diseases-Classification of mental and behavioural disorders (5th ed.). Geneva: Author.

4.    Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. (2015, February 6). The efficacy of CBT treatment for depression Retrieved from https://www.aipc.net.au/articles/the-efficacy-of-cbt-treatment-for-depression/

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