What Is Depression?
You may think of depression as that “down feeling” you get when something goes wrong. True clinical depression is an illness, a sensation felt over the whole body.
Depression makes your body hurt, affects your mood, clouds your thoughts, and affects pretty much every other facet of your life. People suffering from depression have trouble with the basic functions of life–eating is disordered, sleep is impossible, and just thinking or trying to use logic becomes difficult.
A true depressive disorder is far different from a “bad mood.” Many of us get a little bit blue when life hands us difficult circumstances, but this is not true depression. Depression doesn’t change when life circumstances improve, and depression is not a mood that simply “passes.” People with a depressive disorder are incapable of “pulling themselves together” or getting better on their own.
Depression requires treatment by a medical doctor, otherwise the symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even a person’s entire lifetime. The good news is that with the right treatment, depression is completely treatable.
Like any illness, the specific symptoms of depression will vary from person to person. Depression comes in many different severities–from mild cases to crippling depression. The changes in thinking, feeling, well-being, and behavior that come along with depression are serious and can include any of the following.
Changes in Thinking
Many people with depression have problems making decisions or concentrating on anything. Even favorite hobbies are nearly impossible to enjoy. Many sufferers of depression report a severe difficulty with their short-term memory functions. Depression makes you forgetful, the consequences of which can make the depression worse.
Negativity is another characteristic feature of depression. A depression sufferer’s thoughts are generally pessimistic–this can include poor self-esteem, extreme guilt, and a heady amount of self-criticism. This is potentially the most dangerous symptom of depression, as these thoughts can turn self-destructive and endanger the depression sufferer.
Changes in Feelings
Depression can cause people to feel sad without a reason. This sadness permeates all of your life, meaning you feel like you don’t enjoy the things you used to love. This translates into a lack of motivation, and increases the feeling of being “down” and tired all the time. All of this also leads to irritability and difficulty controlling your temper. At the extreme end of this symptom set is a feeling of hopelessness, that “nothing will make you feel better.”
Changes in Behavior
Your behavior is a reflection of the negative emotions that depression causes. Withdrawing from social contact is a common symptom of depressed behavior–so is a change in appetite. People with severe depression will find themselves crying for no reason at all, complaining and “acting out” on their anger. In general, there’s no sexual desire in the depressed person, who also tends to neglect their physical fitness, personal appearance, and hygiene. Productivity declines or even completely drops off, which can lead to other personal problems such as the loss of a job or a reprimand at work.
Changes in Health
All of the above symptoms have a huge impact on your health. Physical changes in the body accompany the psychological changes, especially when depression is severe. People with depression often report chronic fatigue, even though they are probably sleeping more than they ever have before. This overabundance of sleep (or even a lack of sleep) has a huge effect on the body’s health, including a decreased appetite and an increase of complaints of aches or pains that used to be minor. Name a physical symptom and depression will probably contribute to it.
The definition of depression requires a person to experience these symptoms for an extended period of time, generally two weeks or more. If you are afraid that you might be depressed, you should see a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible. These medical professionals can assess your level of depression and suggest treatment plans that range from simple life changes all the way to medication and therapy treatment.
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