What is Depression: Symptoms & Treatments


Depression is one of the most talked-about mental illnesses today. This might be because of a rise in mental health awareness, and the willingness for people with depression to share their experiences. Especially with the shocking rates of suicide nowadays, it’s no wonder depression has become such a prominent topic.

Ironically, despite the growing awareness regarding depression, it is still a commonly misunderstood condition, and as a result, myths abound when it comes to depression.

Depression vs. Depression 

First, it is normal to feel bouts of intense sadness in our life, especially when we are confronted with a loss of a loved one, or when we are facing sudden changes in life (e.g. moving away from your hometown).

But this doesn’t mean that you are “clinically depressed”. In order to be truly diagnosed with “depression”, you have to qualify certain criteria. In this way, “major depression” or “clinical depression” is like a physical illness, which needs to be diagnosed by a professional, and which, if left untreated/unchecked, can lead to heavy consequences.  

What is Depression?

When we are talking about depression as a mental health condition, we are mostly referring to “major depression” or other related “depressive disorders”. 

According to the DSM-5, five of the below symptoms must be present for at least two weeks, and these symptoms must significantly impair your daily functioning (social relationships, at work etc.) in order for you to be diagnosed with major depression:

  1. Persistent sadness, feelings of emptiness or hopelessness for most of the day (in the case of children, this can be irritable mood)
  2. Loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities
  3. Significant weight loss or gain; significant decrease/increase in appetite
  4. Loss of sleep, or conversely, sleeping too much 
  5. Feeling restless, agitated; or conversely, feeling like you are “slowed down”
  6. Feeling tired, fatigued, and low energy
  7. Feeling worthless, guilty
  8. Unable to concentrate or think, feeling indecisive
  9. Thinking about death frequently, or thinking of suicide (either of attempting it or without attempting it)

Having five or more of the above symptoms for more than two weeks it might indicate the presence of a “major depressive episode”. It is highly recommended for those who have these to seek professional advice. 

Treatment for Depression

Depending on the severity of a person’s major depression, treatment may involve either medication, or psychotherapy, or both combined. 

For medication, usually, antidepressants are prescribed with professional advice from psychiatrists. But most research has shown that medication can be more effective if combined with psychotherapy. Psychotherapy usually involves one-to-one therapy sessions with clinical psychologists, to cope with the symptoms and struggles, increasing daily functioning, and help you lead a better life. 

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