Understanding Depression

Sadness is a normal reaction to difficult times in life and usually passes with a little time. But when a person has clinical depression, it interferes with daily life and normal functioning. It can cause pain for both the person with depression and for those who care about him or her. It is a real illness. It’s not a sign of a person’s weakness or a character flaw. You can’t “snap out of” clinical depression. Most people who experience depression need treatment to get better.

Sadness is only a small part of depression. It has many other symptoms, including physical ones. If you have been experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms for at least two weeks, talk with your doctor:


  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms

If you have thoughts of death or suicide, seek immediate help.

If you think you may have depression, start by making an appointment to see your doctor. This could be your primary doctor or a healthcare provider who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental-health conditions (a psychologist or psychiatrist). To prepare for your appointment, make a list that includes the following:


  • Symptoms you’ve had, including those that may seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment
  • When did your symptoms start?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Have the symptoms occurred before?
  • If the symptoms have occurred before, how were they treated?
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes
  • All medications, vitamins or other supplements that you’re taking, including how much and how often
  • A list of questions to ask your doctor

Depression is treated with medicines, talk therapy (where a person talks with a trained professional about his or her thoughts and feelings; sometimes called psychotherapy) or a combination of the two. Remember, there is no one-size- fits-all treatment. It may take some trial and error, with the help of your doctor, to find the treatment that works best for you.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health