What is Depression?

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a prevalent and serious medical condition that impacts your emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Depression induces feelings of sadness and a decline in interest in previously enjoyed activities. It can result in various emotional and physical challenges, impairing your ability to perform effectively both at work and at home.

What causes Depression?

The precise cause of depression remains unknown. Similar to numerous mental disorders, it may involve a combination of factors, including:

Biological Differences

Individuals with depression display observable physical alterations in their brains. The implications of these changes remain uncertain but may eventually contribute to identifying potential causes.

Brain Chemistry

Depression is likely influenced by the natural brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Recent research suggests that alterations in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters, along with their interactions with the neurocircuits responsible for mood stability, may play a significant role in depression and its treatment.


Imbalances in the body's hormone levels could contribute to the onset or exacerbation of depression. Hormone shifts may occur during pregnancy and postpartum, as well as due to thyroid issues, menopause, or various other conditions.


Depression is more prevalent among individuals with blood relatives affected by the condition. Scientists are actively investigating genes that may play a role in the development of depression.

Symptoms of Depression

While depression can occur only once in one's lifetime, individuals commonly experience multiple episodes. Throughout these episodes, symptoms persist for most of the day, nearly every day, and may include

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

For many individuals experiencing depression, symptoms typically reach a severity that hinders daily activities, affecting work, school, social activities, or relationships with others. Some may endure an overall sense of misery or unhappiness without a clear understanding of the cause.

Types of Depression

There are five classifications of Depressive Disorders, which are categorized as

Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder (often simply called Depression) is characterized by having at least one major depressive episode, including five or more symptoms, persisting for a minimum of two weeks. In some cases, this disorder recurs, with episodes occurring monthly, yearly, or intermittently throughout one's life. Those with recurrent episodes of major depression are sometimes referred to as having unipolar depression (formerly known as "clinical depression"), as they only undergo periods of low or depressed mood.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent Depressive Disorder, previously known as dysthymia, denotes an enduring, chronic state of low-level depressed mood. While not as severe as major depression, the persistent depressed state in this disorder can be equally debilitating.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression manifests as feelings of sadness, indifference, exhaustion, and anxiety following childbirth. It impacts approximately one in every nine women who have given birth and can affect women irrespective of age, race, or economic background.

Bipolar Depression

Bipolar Depression is the depressive phase of Bipolar Disorder. Those with Bipolar Disorder experience bouts of Bipolar Depression with swings of mania (or hypomania if less severe).

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) typically starts in the late fall and early winter and dissipates during the spring and summer. Depressive episodes linked to the summer can occur, but are much less common than winter episodes of SAD.

Psychotic Depression

Psychotic Depression arises when a major depressive episode is accompanied by psychotic features like hallucinations and delusions. The psychotic symptoms typically revolve around depressive themes such as guilt, worthlessness, and thoughts of death.

Diagnosing Depression

Serene Mental Health Clinic is your source for diagnosing Depression.

For a depression diagnosis, an individual must experience five depression symptoms consistently throughout each day for at least two weeks. Among these symptoms, there must be either a persistent depressed mood or a significant loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities. In children and adolescents, irritability may be present instead of sadness. It's crucial to rule out potential causes like certain medications or medical conditions such as viruses or thyroid disorders, which can manifest similar depression symptoms. Primary healthcare providers can perform an assessment, including a physical exam, interview, and lab tests, to eliminate these possibilities.

Treating Depression

Serene Mental Health Clinic is your source for prescribing treatment for Depression.

Treatment for depression can include one or more of:


Antidepressants impact brain chemicals, but it typically takes 4 to 6 weeks for their full effect. It's important to continue taking the medicine even if immediate results aren't apparent. Never discontinue medication without consulting us or your healthcare provider. Adjustments or additions to the medication regimen may be necessary, and close collaboration is essential to find the most effective treatment.


Cognitive-behavioral and/or interpersonal therapy is commonly used, aiming to correct distorted self-perceptions and improve relationships. It also helps identify and manage life stressors.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

This therapy may be employed for severe, life-threatening depression resistant to medication. It involves passing a mild electrical current through the brain, inducing a brief seizure. The seizures, for reasons not fully understood, aid in restoring the normal balance of brain chemicals, alleviating symptoms.

With treatment, improvement should be noticeable within a few weeks. Untreated, symptoms may persist for weeks, months, or even years. Consistent treatment can reduce the likelihood of depression recurrence.

Depression can bring feelings of exhaustion, worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness. It's crucial to recognize that these negative perspectives are manifestations of depression and don't accurately reflect reality. As treatment begins, negative thinking tends to diminish. In the meantime, consider the following

  • Get help. If you think you may be depressed, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
  • Set realistic goals in light of the depression and don’t take on too much.
  • Break large tasks into small ones. Set priorities, and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to be with other people and confide in someone. It’s usually better than being alone and secretive..
  • Do things that make you feel better. Going to a movie, gardening, or taking part in religious, social, or other activities may help. Doing something nice for someone else can also improve your mood.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Understand that improvement in mood is a gradual process. Feeling better takes time.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. These can make depression worse.
  • Delay significant decisions until after the depression has lifted, seeking input from those who know you well.
  • Remember: People don’t "snap out of" a depression. But they can feel a little better day-by-day.
  • Be patient and focus on positives to counteract negative thinking.
  • Let your family and friends help you.