What is Depression?

Depression is a serious medical condition which has a negative impact on the way you feel, think, and act. It not only causes you to feel sad, but also leads to a loss of interest in those activities that you once enjoyed and a tendency to neglect friendships and other relationships that previously would have been important to you.

Depression can also promote various physical and emotional symptoms. In some cases, it can also leave the person unable to carry out even the simplest of tasks. Fortunately, depression can be treated and the majority of individuals suffering from it can return to a positive state of mind and a healthy, happy life within a reasonable period of time.

What causes Depression?

According to research, a chemical imbalance in the brain may be the predominant cause of depression, but it is not the only cause of it. In fact, there are a number of factors that increase the risk of depression. These include:

  • Abuse

Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse in the past can increase the chances of developing clinical depression in later years.

  • Medicines

Certain medicines like isotretinoin (used to treat acne), corticosteroids, and an antiviral named interferon-alpha can increase the chances of depression.

  • Conflict

When someone with the biological vulnerability to depression faces personal disputes or disagreements with friends or family members, they then have a higher risk of developing depression.

  • Personal loss

Grief coming from the loss or death of a loved one can also increase the chances of developing depression

  • Genetic Predispositions

A family history of depression can also increase the risk. Depression is known to be a complex trait, and certain genetic patterns can influence the way and the effectiveness with which the brain produces and retains specific neurotransmitters related to mood, serotonin and dopamine most specifically.

  • Major Events

Both good and bad major events can cause depression. These can include getting married, landing a new job, graduating, retiring, moving out of your hometown, getting divorced, or being fired from your job.

This list could be much longer – major life changes can promote depression in some people.

  • Personal Problems

Examples here can be family rejection, social isolation, or breakdowns of long-term romantic relationships can also increase the chances of developing depression.

  • Substance Abuse

Studies have indicated that almost 30% of people that have problems with substance abuse can be diagnosed with clinical or major depression.

Types of Depression

There are many kinds of depression. Three of the most common ones are:

  • Major Depression

Known as major depressive disorder, major depression is when you feel depressed and low almost all the time for a great part of your week. If you have 5 or more symptoms of depression, including loss of interest in your favorite hobbies, that last for more than two weeks then you may have major depression.

  • Bipolar Depression

Bipolar disorder is also called manic depression, and is characterized by radical mood swings involving low, depressive moods that switch to energetic, happy ones and back frequently and without any perceived reasoning.

  • Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a mix of behavioral, emotional, and physical changes that occur in a woman after birth. It is considered to be a form of major depression, and typically onsets within a month after delivery.

Other kinds of depression include:

  • Great depression
  • SAD – seasonal affective disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Psychotic depression
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Situational depression
  • Atypical depression

Symptoms and signs of Depression

While each kind of depression has different signs, there are 10 common depression symptoms that tend to be attached to each and make it easy to recognize the disorder. These include:

Feeling hopeless and helpless: You have a negative outlook on life, and you feel as if you are in a bad situation and can do nothing to resolve it more favourably.

No interest in day-to-day activities: You no longer have an interest in your past hobbies, social activities or pastimes. Joy and enjoying the small pleasures in life is hard to come by.

Dietary changes: Significant gain or loss of weight; changes in weight by more than 5% in a month.

Changes in sleeping schedule: An inconsistent or erratic sleeping schedule can be a sign of depression. Oversleep or experiencing insomnia (inability to fall asleep or stay asleep) are common indicators. Waking up too early in the morning and being unable to return to sleep can qualify here as well.

Restlessness or anger: Feeling irritated and angry, and in some cases even being inclined to violence, can be signs of depression. These individuals may have a short temper, a low tolerance for everything, and find every little thing and everyone is prone to getting on their nerves.

Fatigue: Depressed people may experience loss of energy and move sluggishly or unwillingly. They will often report being physically drained, even if nothing has occurred to could make them feel fatigued. Even small tasks may tire them out and take hours to complete.

Unexplained physical pain: Depressed people may complain more about different physical discomforts such as stomach pain, aching muscles, headaches, and back pain. 

Feelings of self-loathing: They may also experience strong feelings of guilt, as well as perceived worthlessness. It is also common for depressed individuals to overly criticize themselves for mistakes and faults.

Trouble concentrating: They may have difficulty remembering things, making decisions, and remaining focused on tasks at hand.

Reckless behavior: Those suffering from depression may start noticing themselves getting involved in escapist behavior like dangerous sports, reckless driving, substance abuse, and compulsive gambling.

Treatment for Depression

Just as depression affects different individuals in different ways, there is no definitive one-size-fits-all treatment for everyone that cures depression. What might be effective for one individual might not work for another. Apart from being aware of the signs of depression, treating depression also involves:

  • Lifestyle changes

Despite being a simple suggestion, making changes to your lifestyle is effective for treating depression. In fact, in some cases, lifestyle changes alone can cure depression. In other cases, while you might need additional treatment options, making the right changes to your lifestyle can help to cure depression faster and ensure it doesn't come back.

  • Psychotherapy

If the doctor hasn’t found any underlying medical cause for your depression symptoms, then one treatment option is working with a qualified therapist. Therapy provides you with insight and skills that help you feel better and prevent the recurrence of depression.

While there are many kinds of therapy, the most common ones used for depression include psychodynamic, interpersonal, and cognitive behavioral therapy. These 3 are often used in conjunction with each other. 

  • Pharmaceutical Medicine

Treating depression with medications is a proven effective and extremely common course of treatment. However, in many cases, it is not the most effective method when medications are used on their own. These medications will effectively address chemical imbalances, but since depression is often more complex than just a chemical imbalance the medication will only relieve some symptoms of severe and moderate depression and not be an overall solution in itself.

In addition, antidepressants have side effects and withdrawal is tough. That’s why you should make sure to consult your health provider before you start taking any drugs for depression.


  1. Mayo Clinic – Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  2. WebMD – Coping With Side Effects of Depression Treatment

IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. See your health care professional for medical advice and treatment.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or helpless
  • Dietary changes
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Restlessness or anger
  • Self-loating feelings such as guilt or worthlessness
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Reckless behaviour
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • No interest in day-to-day activities
  • Drastic changes in mood
  • Irritable
  • Thoughts about harming yourself or others
  • Difficulty making decisions


  • Chemical imbalance of the brain
  • Disturbance in the prefrontal lobe of the brain, responsible for regulating emotions, making decisions, and memories
  • Excessive amounts of cortisol is released in the brain during depression - causes the hippocampus and prefrotnal cortex to shrink
  • Amygdala, responsbile for emotional responses, becomes enlarged and hyperactive due to high levels of cortisol


  • Personal loss
  • Physical or mental abuse
  • Conflict
  • Substance abuse
  • Personal problems such as rejection
  • Major life events
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Financial issues


  • Healthcare provider will assess behaviour and symptoms
  • Family medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Mood charting


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