What is depression anyways?

Mental Health

💧 Depression is a medical illness, influenced by genes 🧬 , 😞 stressors in our lives, and the 🏡 environment around us. It is influenced by biological, social, and psychological factors.

There is no one cause for depression. Depression can affect any person, regardless of age or social status. Some people are more likely to experience depression, but no person causes their depression. Depression is not a weakness. Depression affects our mental health, a part of our overall health.

👩‍👩‍👧‍👧 Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world and is common, affecting up to 10% of people globally. Depression can sometimes be caused by medical illness like thyroid problems. It can also make physical symptoms of illnesses like diabetes worse. It is not something we can control.

💙 Depression is more than the feeling of sadness. Sadness can happen after difficult events such as losing a loved one or experiencing a major life event. But sadness is usually time limited and starts to improve within several months after the traumatic event. Sadness is a feeling that does not stay with the person all day, every day. The person can still experience moments of joy even if they are sad. Depression is a feeling that doesn’t go away and can last for weeks.

➡️ To be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), a person must have experienced the following symptoms persistently for the past 2 weeks. They experience either 1) Sad/depressed mood and/or 2) Loss of interest or fulfillment in things the person usually enjoys. To be diagnosed with depression, they also have four of the following symptoms: change in appetite, decreased energy, feeling like they don’t have worth or guilt, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and/or thoughts of not wanting to live. Not everyone who has depression will look or act exactly the same. The important thing is what the person tells you. If they tell you that they are experiencing these symptoms and it is making it hard for them to get through their daily life, then it is impacting them. Some people can still go to work and take care of their families, but experience depression. There are many different diagnoses related to depression other than MDD, including but not limited to: perinatal depression, seasonal affective disorder, and dysthymia (persistent low mood that doesn’t meet full criteria for MDD).

🫂 There are effective treatments to help with all of these diagnoses. These include individual therapy (like cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral activation, or interpersonal therapy), group therapy, or antidepressant medications (like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Some therapy treatments like groups can be led by peers and others may be led by specialists like psychologists. Medications can be prescribed by a primary care clinician or a mental health specialist (like a psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant). In most cases of depression, therapy or medication can be a first option for treatment. In children, therapy is typically the first option for treatment. Evidence does suggest that therapy and medication together can be effective in the treatment of depression for adults. However, treatment decisions depend a lot on what may be an acceptable form of treatment to the person and what they find most helpful. However, if someone is at risk of harming themselves or others, hospitalization may be needed to ensure the person’s safety and to quickly get them help.

🌈 Regardless of the type of treatment, there is no shame in seeking help from a clinician, friend, family member, or other support person. Many people experience depression and there are resources available to assist you. While we recognize that there is a lot of stigma around mental health issues in many parts of the world, know that the more we talk about these issues, the more it helps to break down this stigma. Prevention of depression is also important. Programs to prevent depression may include school programs to help children learn coping skills, community programs to help people make social connections, and exercise and wellness programs for older adults. While these programs cannot prevent all cases of depression, they do help people be more aware of depression, develop the skills to improve mental health, help people connect to others, have somewhere to go, and find a purpose that motivates them.

🫶 If you or a loved one are experiencing depression, know that it is OK to seek help. You are not alone.

Please note: If you need additional resources, Mental Health America (MHA) offers a great way to search for resources. And if you are in need of immediate assistance, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; Hearing Support: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Stay safe. Stay Well.
Those Nerdy Girls

Additional Links:

WHO Information Depression including links to treatment manuals

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Website on Depression

Mental Health America Resource Finder

Depression Screening

American Psychological Association (APA) Treatment Guidelines

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