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What is Depression? (Advice in 5 min!)

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What is Depression?

man with plate of food that is not eating it and does not look interested in eating

“The difference between depression and sadness is that sadness is just from happenstance. Whatever happened or didn’t happen for you, or grief or whatever it is. Depression is your body saying ‘fuck you, I don’t want to be this character anymore. I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you created. And the world is too much for me,’” – Jim Carrey

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Depression may require long-term treatment.


  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
Children and Teens
  • Symptoms of depression in children and teens differ. In younger children, symptoms of depression may include sadness, irritability, clinginess, worry, aches and pains, refusing to go to school, or being underweight.
Depression symptoms in older adults
  • Memory difficulties or personality changes
  • Physical aches or pain
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, sleep problems or loss of interest in sex
  • Often wanting to stay at home, rather than going out to socialize or doing new things
  • Suicidal thinking or feelings
When to see a doctor
  • Make an appointment to see your doctor or mental health professional as soon as you can
When to get emergency help
  • If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Also consider these options if you’re having suicidal thoughts: Call your doctor or mental health professional
  • Call a suicide hotline number
  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community
  • There are a variety of factors that may be involved
  • Biological differences in the brain and changes in hormones
  • Changes in the function and effect of neurotransmitters and how they interact with neurocircuits involved in maintaining mood stability
  • Inherited traits
  • Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition
Risk factors
  • Certain personality traits
  • Traumatic or stressful events
  • Blood relatives with a history of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism or suicide
  • Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or having variations in the development of genital organs that aren’t clearly male or female (intersex) in an unsupportive situation
  • History of other mental health disorders
  • Abuse of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Serious or chronic illness, including cancer, stroke, chronic pain or heart disease
  • Complications associated with depression include: excess weight or obesity, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes, Pain or physical illness, Alcohol or drug misuse, Anxiety, panic disorder or social phobia, Family conflicts, relationship difficulties, and work or school problems, Social isolation, Suicidal feelings, suicide attempts or suicide, Self-mutilation, such as cutting, Premature death from medical conditions
  • Take steps to control stress, increase your resilience, and boost your self-esteem
  • Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent depression from worsening
  • Consider getting long-term maintenance treatment to prevent a relapse of symptoms
  • Natural medicines in the clinical management of depression
  • Depression and complementary health approaches: What the science says
  • Bipolar and related disorders
  • Unipolar depression in adults
  • Risks of antidepressants during pregnancy
  • Safety of infant exposure to antidepressants and benzodiazepines through breastfeeding
  • Children’s mental health

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