Depression is classified as a mood disorder. It may be described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger that interfere with a person’s everyday activities.
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.
It’s also fairly common. Though depression and grief share some features, depression is different from grief felt after losing a loved one or sadness felt after a traumatic life event. Depression usually involves self-loathing or a loss of self-esteem, while grief typically does not.
Depression is a serious mental illness that can interfere with a person’s life. It can cause long-lasting and severe feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities. It can also cause physical symptoms of pain, appetite changes, and sleep problems. When you feel anxious, your body goes on high alert, looking for possible danger and activating your fight or flight responses. As a result, some common symptoms of anxiety include: nervousness, restlessness, or being tense, Feelings of danger, panic, or dread
In grief, positive emotions and happy memories of the deceased typically accompany feelings of emotional pain. In major depressive disorder, the feelings of sadness are constant. People experience depression in different ways. It may interfere with your daily work, resulting in lost time and lower productivity. It can also influence relationships and some chronic health conditions.
Conditions that can get worse due to depression include:
- cardiovascular disease
It’s important to realize that feeling down at times is a normal part of life. Sad and upsetting events happen to everyone. But if you’re feeling down or hopeless on a regular basis, you could be dealing with depression. Depression is considered a serious medical condition that can get worse without proper treatment.
Depression Is Different From Sadness or Grief/Bereavement
The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship is difficult experiences for a person to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe them as being “depressed.”
But being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities. They are also different in important ways:
- In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for most of two weeks.
- In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.
- In grief, thoughts of death may surface when thinking of or fantasizing about “joining” the deceased loved one. In major depression, thoughts are focused on ending one’s life due to feeling worthless or undeserving of living or being unable to cope with the pain of depression.
Depression can be more than a constant state of sadness or feeling “blue.” Major depression can cause a variety of symptoms. Some affect your mood and others affect your body. Symptoms may also be ongoing or come and go.
General signs and symptoms
Not everyone with depression will experience the same symptoms. Symptoms can vary in severity, how often they happen, and how long they last.
If you experience some of the following signs and symptoms of depression nearly every day for at least 2 weeks, you may be living with depression:
- feeling sad, anxious, or “empty”
- feeling hopeless, worthless, and pessimistic
- crying a lot
- feeling bothered, annoyed, or angry
- loss of interest in hobbies and interests you once enjoyed
- decreased energy or fatigue
- difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- moving or talking more slowly
- difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
- appetite or weight changes
- chronic physical pain with no clear cause that does not get better with treatment (headaches, aches or pains, digestive problems, cramps)
- thoughts of death, suicide, self-harm, or suicide attempts
The symptoms of depression can be experienced differently among males, females, teens, and children.
Males may experience symptoms related to their:
- mood, such as anger, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, or restlessness
- emotional well-being, such as feeling empty, sad, or hopeless
- behavior, such as loss of interest, no longer finding pleasure in favorite activities, feeling tired easily, thoughts of suicide, drinking excessively, using drugs, or engaging in high-risk activities
- cognitive abilities, such as inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, or delayed responses during conversations
- sleep patterns, such as insomnia, restless sleep, excessive sleepiness, or not sleeping through the night
- physical well-being, such as fatigue, pains, headache, or digestive problems
Females may experience symptoms related to their:
- mood, such as irritability
- emotional well-being, such as feeling sad or empty, anxious, or hopeless
- behavior, such as loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from social engagements, or thoughts of suicide
- cognitive abilities, such as thinking or talking more slowly
- sleep patterns, such as difficulty sleeping through the night, waking early, or sleeping too much
- physical well-being, such as decreased energy, greater fatigue, changes in appetite, weight changes, aches, pain, headaches, or increased cramps
Children may experience symptoms
- mood, such as irritability, anger, rapid shifts in mood, or crying
- emotional well-being, such as feelings of incompetence or despair, crying, or intense sadness
- behavior, such as getting into trouble at school or refusing to go to school, avoiding friends or siblings, thoughts of death or suicide, or self-harm
- cognitive abilities, such as difficulty concentrating, decline in school performance, or changes in grades
- sleep patterns, such as difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- physical well-being, such as loss of energy, digestive problems, changes in appetite, or weight loss or gain
There are several possible causes of depression. They can range from biological to circumstantial. Common causes include:
- Brain chemistry. There may be a chemical imbalance in parts of the brain that manage mood, thoughts, sleep, appetite, and behavior in people who have depression.
- Hormone levels. Changes in female hormones estrogen and progesterone during different periods of time like during the menstrual cycle, postpartum period, per menopause, or menopause may all raise a person’s risk for depression.
- Family history. You’re at a higher risk for developing depression if you have a family history of depression or another mood disorder.
- Early childhood trauma. Some events affect the way your body reacts to fear and stressful situations.
- Brain structure. There’s a greater risk for depression if the frontal lobe of your brain is less active. However, scientists don’t know if this happens before or after the onset of depressive symptoms.
- Medical conditions. Certain conditions put you at higher risk, such as chronic illness, insomnia, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, heart attack, and cancer.
- Substance use. A history of substance or alcohol misuse can affect your risk.
- Pain. People who feel emotional or chronic physical pain for long periods of time are significantly more likely to develop depression.
Risk factors for depression can be biochemical, medical, social, genetic, or circumstantial. Common risk factors include:
- Sex. The prevalence of major depression is twice as high in females as in males.
- Genetics. You have an increased risk of depression if you have a family history of it.
- Socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status, including financial problems and perceived low social status, can increase your risk of depression.
- Certain medications. Certain drugs including some types of hormonal birth control, corticosteroids, and beta-blockers may be associated with an increased risk of depression.
- Vitamin D deficiency. Studies have linked depressive symptoms to low levels of vitamin D.
- Gender identity. The risk of depression for transgender people is nearly 4-fold that of cisgender people, according to a 2018 study.
- Substance misuse. About 21 percent of people who have a substance use disorder also experience depression.
- Medical illnesses. Depression is associated with other chronic medical illnesses. People with heart disease are about twice as likely to have depression as people who don’t, while up to 1 in 4 people with cancer may also experience depression.
Additional causes of depression
In addition to those causes, two of the more abstract causes of depression can be:
Life Events– It has been found through research that life events can increase your chances of being depressed. Examples of events like this include:
- Losing your job
- Being in a dysfunctional relationship
- Stress at work
- Going through a breakup or divorce
- Being diagnosed with an illness
- Being unemployed for a long time
- Grieving a loved one
While negative life events can cause depression, they don’t necessarily always cause it. Often, it is more about how you deal with these difficult situations. Feeling down most of the time can lead to depression.
Natural Depression Treatments
Being depressed can make you feel helpless. You’re not. Along with therapy and sometimes medication, there’s a lot you can do on your own to fight back. Changing your behavior — your physical activity, lifestyle, and even your way of thinking — are all natural depression treatments.
These tips can help you feel better — starting right now.
1. Get in a routine. If you’re depressed, you need a routine. Depression can strip away the structure from your life. One day melts into the next. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track.
2. Set goals. When you’re depressed, you may feel like you can’t accomplish anything. That makes you feel worse about yourself. To push back, set daily goals for yourself.
“Make your goal something that you can succeed at, like doing the dishes every other day.” As you start to feel better, you can add more challenging daily goals.
3. Exercise. It temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It may also have long-term benefits for people with depression. Regular exercise seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways, Cook says.
4. Eat healthy. There is no magic diet that fixes depression. It’s a good idea to watch what you eat, though. If depression tends to make you overeat, getting in control of your eating will help you feel better.
5. Get enough sleep. Depression can make it hard to get enough shut-eye, and too little sleep can make depression worse.
6. Take on responsibilities. When you’re depressed, you may want to pull back from life and give up your responsibilities at home and at work. Don’t. Staying involved and having daily responsibilities can help you maintain a lifestyle that can help counter depression. They ground you and give you a sense of accomplishment.
If you’re not up to full-time school or work, that’s fine. Think about part-time. If that seems like too much, consider volunteer work.
7. Challenge negative thoughts. In your fight against depression, a lot of the work is mental — changing how you think. When you’re depressed, you leap to the worst possible conclusions.
The next time you’re feeling terrible about yourself, use logic as a natural depression treatment. You might feel like no one likes you, but is there real evidence for that? You might feel like the most worthless person on the planet, but is that really likely? It takes practice, but in time you can beat back those negative thoughts before they get out of control.
8. Check with your doctor before using supplements. There’s promising evidence for certain supplements for depression. Those include fish oil, folic acid. But more research needs to be done before we’ll know for sure. Always check with your doctor before starting any supplement, especially if you’re already taking medications.
9. Do something new. When you’re depressed, you’re in a rut. Push yourself to do something different. Go to a museum. Pick up a used book and read it on a park bench. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take a language class.
“When we challenge ourselves to do something different, there are chemical changes in the brain”
10. Try to have fun. If you’re depressed, make time for things you enjoy. What if nothing seems fun anymore? “That’s just a symptom of depression,” You have to keep trying anyway.
11. Avoid alcohol and other drugs. Substance misuse is common in people who have depression. You may be more likely to turn to alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs to deal with the symptoms of your depression. It’s unclear if drinking and using drugs causes depression. But long-term drug use could change the way your brain works and worsen or lead to mental health problems.
When you’re depressed, you can lose the knack for enjoying life. You have to relearn how to do it. In time, fun things really will feel fun again.
Exercise for depression
1. Go for a Run for an All-Natural Mood Boost
Engaging in at least 30 minutes of exercise on three to five days of the week could significantly lessen depressive symptoms. And if you’re short on time, even a 10- to 15-minute spurt of exercise could make a difference.
2. Lift Your Mood by Lifting Some Weights
Strength-training exercises also help relieve symptoms of depression. adults who exercise with weights are less likely to develop depression than those who never exercise with weights. Just be sure to start slowly and use the assistance of a personal trainer if needed.
3. Combine Yoga with Other Treatments to Feel
Practicing yoga is another activity that can ease symptoms of depression, especially when combined with usual treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. women who practiced hatha yoga, which combines yoga poses with breathing techniques, three times a week for four weeks reported lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, compared with those levels at the start of the study.
Another study found that doing 60 minutes of a similar yoga practice twice a week over the course of 12 weeks decreased levels of depression and anxiety and increased self-esteem among elderly women.
4. Walk Regularly to Help Ease the Blues
Simply putting one foot in front of the other may be the trick to feeling better — that’s because walking is an aerobic exercise that’s suited for almost everyone. All it takes is a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes, and you’re ready to go.
5. Get a Healthy Dose of Sunlight by Heading Outdoors
If you enjoy being outdoors, even simple activities such as gardening, throwing a ball around with your kids, or washing your car may do your mood some good. One reason may be that sunlight has been shown to facilitate increases in serotonin, a mood-supporting brain chemical. Drops in serotonin during the darker, colder months have been linked to some cases of seasonal affective disorder.
6. Break Out of a Funk by Bouncing
One simple strategy is to bounce! Jumping on a mini trampoline, also known as a rebounder, is a fun way to work your cardiovascular system without taxing your joints.
You don’t need to jump but bend your knees and bounce as quickly as you can for a few minutes. This is an easy way to oxygenate your brain and get some endorphins flowing. When bouncing on a trampoline, your brain will release serotonin as well as oxytocin — another mood-boosting brain chemical.