Below find frequently asked questions about what depression is, the difference between sadness and depression, how to manage your mood and how therapy can help.
General Questions About Depression
What are the main causes of depression?
The onset, continuation or worsening of depression can be influenced by internal or external factors, including:
- Certain life events (death, divorce, job loss, etc.)
- High stress situations
- Social environments and situations
- Genetic factors
- Trauma and abuse
- Certain medications
- And more
But it’s important to note that each individual’s relationship to depression is personal and individual. What causes depression in some individuals may not have the same effect in others.
What are the different types of depression?
Depression can take many different forms. Some of the most common types of depression include:
- Major depression
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Psychotic depression
- Peripartum (postpartum) depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Situational depression
- Atypical depression
Even within these categories, individuals may experience different symptoms of severity of symptoms within the same diagnosis.
What is the definition of depression?
Depression can be defined as a constant or chronic feeling of sadness, loss of interest, helplessness and/or hopelessness. Symptoms exist on a spectrum, and can range from mild to severe.
Symptoms must represent a change in an individual’s previous behavior and last at least two weeks in order to be classified as depression.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Common symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest or pleasure from things you typically enjoy (anhedonia)
- Changes in energy, sleep patterns and/or appetite
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness and/or guilt
- Inability to relax/be still
- A slowing of general action and/or speech
- Difficulty concentrating or decision making
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming others
What is the difference between sadness and depression?
It is perfectly normal and healthy to experience sadness or grief following a major loss or life change. Depression differs from sadness or grief primarily in that it is prolonged and does not always directly align with an appropriate period or event (meaning that it may occur “out of the blue” or continue on beyond the typical length of bereavement).
Sadness, grief and depression often occur in combination. It is quite common for an individual to experience sadness following a period of grief, then transitioning to depression when they are not able to process that same event, or vice versa.
Can you inherit depression? Is depression genetic?
Approximately 40% of individuals with depression can trace their condition through a genetic link to close relatives such as parents, grandparents and siblings.
While there is an increased risk of depression within families in which one or more members have been diagnosed with depression, it does not mean that every family member within that same family will develop depression within their lifetime. There are other factors such as environment, lifestyle and personality which also have a direct impact on whether or not an individual may suffer from depression.
Can depression change your personality?
Any mental illness can cause personality changes, because an individual’s mental health has a direct effect on their perception and behavior. For example, a depressed individual may be more irritable or less willing to take on new tasks, while a manic individual may seem very outgoing or motivated.
Is depression biological or psychological?
Depression is both biological and psychological, with certain biological factors contributing to the development of and severity of the mental illness, while at the same time, the condition remains a psychological condition that can often be treated through therapy techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Treatment for Depression
What are the general methods used to treat depression?
Individuals seeking to overcome depression may turn to a variety of resources to help them, these include:
- Therapy, counseling, or psychotherapy
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
Seeking out a qualified therapist is a great place to start. They can help objectively examine your situation to determine what treatment plan will yield the best results.
What form of therapy is most effective for major depression?
Common forms of therapy used to treat depression may include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – teaching individuals how to recognize and alter destructive behaviors or thought patterns
- Interpersonal therapy (ITP) – Used to address interpersonal issues to treat mild or moderate forms of depression
- Psychodynamic therapy – Focusing on the psychological roots of emotional suffering from object relations, ego psychology and self psychology through self-reflection and self-examination
Often, therapists use a combination of these methods based on the severity of the symptoms and the individual’s personal temperament and personality type.
What psychology deals with depression?
Virtual all forms of psychology and counseling deal with depression or depressive symptoms, but some common areas include self-examination of the individual and their environment and developing coping mechanisms and strategies to overcome destructive or negative thought patterns or emotions.
Can depression be a learned behavior?
While depression in and of itself has a variety of factors and causes, depressive behaviors such as negative self-talk, lack of motivation and others can often be classified as learned behavior. This means that with proper assistance by qualified mental health professionals, individuals with depression can work to identify these behaviors and alter them to benefit their emotional wellbeing in the future.
What medication is available for depression?
There are a number of medication types available for the treatment of depression, when needed. These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and more.
Your therapist can help you determine whether the use of medications would be beneficial to you. If so, they will provide a referral to a qualified psychiatrist for the administration of these medications.
Coping With Depression
Can lifestyle have an effect on depression?Lifestyle can certainly have an effect on depression. Activities such as drinking, illness and isolation can have a negative effect, while others such as a well-balanced diet, exercise routine, stress management and more can benefit you positively.
Is depression permanent?While some individuals may struggle with depression more frequently throughout their lives, either chronically or consistently, some others may experience only short periods of mild, moderate or extreme depressive episodes. It is important to discuss your goals for therapy and the outcomes you hope to achieve with your therapist. They will be able to give you better insight into how you can achieve a happy, healthy life.
What are some things I can do to reduce depression?Mental health follows many of the same principles as physical health. To improve your mood, regain energy and improve your outlook we recommend everyone follow basic health guidelines such as:
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
- Exercise several times each week
- Prioritize relationships and community
- De-stress through self-care and self-reflection
- Take time each week to do something that you like (even if you don’t feel like it!)