What is Depression? - Introduction and Information

What is depression? Why, how, when and who does it affect?

Life in its myriad shades repeatedly becomes a cause for great joy or great pain from time to time for all of us who undertake this great journey into the unknown, the unpredictable. Throughout the course of this tumultuous but adventurous journey, all of us go through positive as well as negative experiences, some of which lead us down the path of unhappiness, grief, helplessness, frustration and pain.

Circumstances like the death of a loved one or a relationship ending, etc, will make us feel depressed, or what is popularly termed as a case of “the blues”. Now, when this is transient, and the individual is able to put the episode that caused pain in perspective and move forward with his or her life, he / she is able to use one’s individual inherent coping skills and perhaps the support which is offered in the environment to overcome the pain or loss and simply move on with one’s life. Over a period of days or weeks, one is able to revert to a normal routine and life simply goes on.

However, when the emotions of sadness, pain, helplessness, etc, make it impossible for the individual to return to normal routine activity, and the stressful symptoms continue to manifest for more than a couple of consecutive weeks, this condition is termed as “clinical depression”, as opposed to merely being a case of “the blues”. This is mainly what is depression about.

The Signs and Symptoms

What is depression? Clinical depression is not merely sadness or grief, but an inability and impairment of routine activities which can sometimes lead to tragic fatality like suicide. Depression is an overwhelming burden to carry for any individual who is suffering from it, as well as for the family of the depressed person. Treatment and healing is required for the collective rather than merely the individual who is suffering from depression.

In terms of outward manifestation, what is depression usually associated with? In trying to better understand “what is depression”, let us consider the typical signs and symptoms associated with the condition.

Overall, clinical depression is understood to be a mental ailment that is generally accompanied by a depressed, low mood, lack of interest, loss of pleasure, inability to sleep, loss of appetite, feelings of pain and guilt, as well as a marked inability to concentrate. These symptoms, if they become recurrent and chronic, can lead to the individual’s inability to take care of himself or herself in a day- to-day capacity, and their responsibilities and sphere of activities will inevitably suffer.

If untreated or unchecked, at its very worst, depression can lead to suicide, which is a tragic phenomenon that accounts for about 800,000 deaths every year worldwide. Besides, depression causes greater harm in the sphere of debilitating disabilities and contributes a big chunk to the global composite of diseases. As per estimates, depression is considered to be the 2nd most likely condition that people (individuals of both genders and all ages) are potentially going to be suffering by the year 2020.

Since the condition is so common, it is likely that, sooner or later, some of us or most of us will have to deal with the sceptre of depression in ourselves or deal with someone close to us being depressed. In such situations, there are signs to look out for to provide support and help to the depressed individual. Again, these signals give us an overall clue of what is depression usually associated with.

The depressed individual is likely to suffer from a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, melancholy, lack of energy, sluggishness, and a general inability to focus or function for an extended period of time of two weeks or more consecutively. This may be interspersed with acute problems such as suicidal tendencies or complete unhinging from reality – if this occurs, it is prudent to obtain expert help in crisis management immediately through a professional care giver.

However, if the symptoms are milder and are consistently present for a period of two consecutive weeks, it is safe to presume that the individual is suffering from depression, and one can seek professional help to deal with the root causes that are manifesting as the visible symptoms of depression as described above.

Depression Causes - Emotional Versus Biological

In further understanding what is depression, the definition of depression will also encompass understanding the difference between depression caused by emotional duress and depression caused by physical problems. Knowing what is depression caused by in a particular individual will be important in the treatment and recovery process.

For the layperson, a general method to determine if the depressive symptoms are related to emotional or physical problems is by probing gently into the circumstances that triggered the onset of depression.

The emotional causes that generally come to light will be of the nature of the individual losing a loved one to death, separation, divorce, loss of employment, shattered dreams or aspirations, familial and relationship disappointments, etc, leading to extreme mood swings and the inability to concentrate or function. These depressive symptoms are clearly linked to the emotional turmoil in the individual’s life, and appropriate help should be sought to address the problem.

Sometimes, however, the depressive episodes can occur without any alteration to the routine circumstances in the individual’s life. In such cases, a thorough physical examination is advised to ascertain if there are any underlying changes in body chemistry due to nutritional deficiency, malfunctioning in hormonal activity, hyperthyroidism, etc, which can be the root causes.

Once these underlying physical problems are treated, the depression is effectively dealt with and the individual will return to his or her original balanced state of personality, with no further treatments probably required.

More information and facts for a more thorough understanding of what is depression are provided on the following pages, as well as on the rest of this website:

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