Understanding depression: A comprehensive overview
The MIND 24-7 Team | November 3, 2023
Everyone feels sad or down sometimes. People living with depression feel sad, irritable or empty almost all the time for at least two weeks or longer. The low feelings and other symptoms of depression can make it hard to do normal, everyday activities. Thankfully, depression is treatable.
Learn about depression resources that can help when times are tough.
What is depression?
Depression is a common, serious and treatable mood disorder. It changes how a person feels about themselves and the world around them. It also changes a person’s thoughts and ways of handling everyday life. Although stressful life events can partly cause depression, it is more complex than a normal response to hard experiences.
What are the causes of depression?
Depression can come from many different sources and can happen for many different reasons. Often, several factors come together and bring on depression. Depression triggers can include:
- Stressful events: Events such as a breakup, divorce, job loss or natural disaster can really turn someone’s world upside down. It is natural to feel down after something terrible happens. It is also normal for it to take a while to feel better.
- Major transitions: Significant life changes—even good ones—can trigger depression. Graduation, a new baby, starting a new job and getting married may be welcoming experiences, but they can still be hard to adjust to.
- Death: Sadness or grief over the loss of a loved one can increase the risk of depression.
- Family history: Some types of depression may be partly caused by genes inherited from parents. If a person’s close family members have had depression in the past, they may be at a slightly higher risk of developing it themselves. However, a family history of depression does not guarantee a person will have depression. It just might mean they should use a little extra care to prevent depression when things get tough.
- Loneliness: Humans need to spend time with other humans to feel good. When people are isolated from others, they may be at a higher risk of depression.
- Illness: Sometimes, serious illnesses like cancer, chronic pain, thyroid conditions, HIV and many other health conditions can trigger depression.
- Specific medications: Some drugs can increase the risk for depression. People who have depression should discuss their medications with their providers to check for possible causes of drug-induced depression.
- Abuse: A history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse can make a person more vulnerable to experiencing depression at some point in their life.
- Substance use: Using drugs or alcohol can trigger depression or make it worse. It is common for people who struggle with substance use also to have depression.
Common symptoms of depression
Depression impacts a person’s mood, thoughts, sleep, appetite, cognitive abilities, energy levels and more. When a person is clinically depressed, they feel down almost all day, every day for at least two weeks. They also may have a hard time concentrating on activities, feel guilty or hopeless, and feel excessively tired. Their appetite and sleep may also change. They also may think about suicide. Thankfully, depression can be treated. No one has to live with depression.
What are the different types of depression?
There are many different types of depression. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common types.
Major depressive disorder
Major depressive disorder, or MDD, is the most commonly diagnosed type of depression. People who have an overwhelming feeling of sadness or who have lost interest and pleasure in activities might be diagnosed with MDD. They also may have four of the following symptoms that last for two weeks or more and may impact work, school and/or socializing:
- A change in appetite
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Slow or agitated movements
- Constantly feeling tired
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Thinking of death or suicide without planning to commit suicide
- A hard time thinking and concentrating.
Persistent depressive disorder
Persistent depressive disorder, also called dysthymia, makes someone feel low, dark and sad almost all of the time for more than two years. If there is a break in symptoms, it lasts less than two months. People with two of the following symptoms are typically diagnosed with this type of depression:
- A very small or big appetite
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Low energy
- Low self-esteem
- Poor concentration
- A hard time making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, is a severe type of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that disrupts all aspects of a person’s life. It starts seven to 10 days before the start of a person’s period and continues for the first few days of the period. It may cause:
- Breast tenderness
- Changes in sleep and eating habits
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or anger
- Anxiety, tension and irritability
Seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder, also called SAD, has many of the same symptoms as MDD. The major difference is that it only happens during a specific time of the year, usually in the winter. Seasonal affective disorder may be caused by the shorter days and lack of sunlight many parts of the world experience in the winter.
Postnatal depression, also called postpartum depression, is a common mental illness that women and non-birthing partners experience after childbirth. It involves many of the same symptoms of MDD, plus a person may have scary thoughts or excessively worry about their baby. When a person has postnatal depression, they may also have anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder related to the major life transition.
How common is depression?
When someone has depression, they may feel like they are the only one in the world who feels down. However, depression is very common. Many people all over the world, in the United States and in Arizona have depression and recover.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the second most common mental illness in the world after anxiety.
The United States
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2021, about 21 million or 8.3% of U.S. adults had at least one major depressive experience. In 2021, about 5 million adolescents in the United States, or 20.1% of the adolescent population, had at least one major depressive episode. SAMHSA also reports that:
- More women than men experience MDD.
- Individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 experience more MDD than adults of other ages.
- Experiences of MDD are highest among those who are of two or more races.
In Arizona, 17.5% of adults report being told they have a depressive disorder by a health professional.
Useful depression resources to use and share
Depression can make it very hard to do anything, even activities that used to be fun. If you or a loved one have depression, remember that you do not have to do this alone. It is okay to ask for help when you are having a tough time. Help is available, and help works! Depression can be treated, and the dark clouds will go away.
For help over the phone, through texting or online, use one of these resources:
- Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 988.
- The Trevor Project: Text START to 678-678 or call 1-866-488-7386 or chat online. *The Trevor Project serves LGBTQIA+ youth.
For walk-in mental healthcare in minutes, MIND 24-7 is here to help. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, even holidays. We treat every adult, child or adolescent who needs help, regardless of their ability to pay.
Through Express care, we offer walk-in mental health services for patients who want to see a certified professional and quickly be on their way. Through Progressions, we provide ongoing individual and group counseling and peer support for patients for up to 90 days. We also provide walk-in, emergency Crisis care for children and adults. Our mental health care services include physical and psychiatric evaluation, medication review and refill, care planning, referrals and lab services (when needed).
If you or a loved one needs mental health care in minutes—not days or weeks—visit one of our convenient locations in the Phoenix area or text/call 1-844-MIND247.