What Exactly Is Depression?

The word “depression” is used by people a lot in daily life, but it is also a frequently misunderstood term. Although most people can feel sad and down at times, clinical depression is a treatable medical condition involving severe and long-term mood changes. Without treatment, its symptoms can significantly disrupt daily life. 

What Are the Symptoms of Clinical Depression?

Medical professionals use a questionnaire to screen and test patients for clinical depression as a mental disorder. You meet the diagnostic criteria for this condition if you have five or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:

  • Depressed mood during most of the day
  • Fatigue and lethargy almost every day
  • Feeling hopeless or pessimistic about life in general
  • Feeling restless and irritable most of the day
  • Difficult to concentrate on tasks or to remember things
  • Difficult to fall asleep or to stay awake most of the day
  • Lack of interest in activities one used to enjoy
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Dramatic weight changes

Chronic depression may also lead to physical unease and discomfort, including headaches, joint pain, backache, and sleep problems. Some people experience slowed speech and mobility as well. This is probably because depression causes an imbalance in certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which regulate mood, pain, and sleep patterns.

Can Depression Happen Among Young People?

Depressive disorders can certainly occur among children, adolescents, and young adults. Some are trauma-related disorders that have co-occurring disruptive behaviors such as social isolation and aggression. The two-week rule generally applies to this younger demographic too. If an emotion of sadness or hopelessness lasts for more than two weeks, a young person might be going through depression. Behavioral signs are withdrawal from previous favorite activities and social events, isolation from friends, lack of concentration, and a visible decline in academic performance. 

As with all mental health issues, the earlier intervention happens, the better. The importance of early intervention particularly applies to the younger demographic. Community advocates, school leaders, and family members should watch for the above behavioral signs. Effective treatment at an early stage can prevent young people from developing chronic depression, which might increase their risk for substance use in the future.

Can Depression Be Seasonal?

Some people might experience a relatively predictable cycle of depressive mood, also known as “seasonal affective disorder.” For example, many people experience worsening moods or mood swings during the winter months when their exposure to sunlight has diminished. This condition has to do with Vitamin D deficiency, so many who live in less sun-lit regions are recommended to take Vitamin D supplements to alleviate depression symptoms. 

Cyclical depression can also occur in women who experience more intense anxiety and irritability before and during their menstrual periods. The symptoms of this kind of depression are very similar to seasonal depression, but the direct cause is largely hormonal. After menstrual symptoms pass, they can return to a sense of normalcy. However, the following month, the effects on one’s life can be just as disruptive as before. These cyclical changes may continue until after menopause.

What Causes Depression?

Scientists have argued on depression's underlying causes, but the current consensus is a combination of factors. Genetics, for one, can play a role in shaping the brain's structures and chemistry towards certain mental habits. Sometimes hormonal change at one’s different life stages can be the main trigger. These include women in pregnancy, postpartum or pre-menopausal times. Apart from physiological factors, depression can be caused by traumatic events in the social environment. These include abuse and neglect among children, violence, traumatic accidents, and even grief among the general population. 

Within the category of clinical depression, there are also a few branches. For example, there are what is known as unipolar depression and bipolar depression. Medical professionals have tested instruments to measure and differentiate between these different kinds of depression. Many times, addiction can also induce a depressive mood disorder, which is known as substance-induced depression. 

Depression and Other Mood Disorders

Depression is also complicated and hard to diagnose because it may co-occur with other mental health problems, such as mania (episodes of high energy followed by lethargy) or catatonia (unresponsive or uncontrollable movement). In situations of co-occurring illnesses, the factors that led to depression can be multifaceted.

Because the most devastating consequence of depression is suicide, it is crucial to identify the symptoms of chronic depression and intervene early. When depression and addiction are co-occurring illnesses, there needs to be a holistic treatment plan for both the body and the mind.

Are you or a loved one is going through depression? Are you struggling with co-occurring addiction and depression? You need to seek professional help from an interventionist who can walk alongside you in this challenging process. Addiction-induced depression can be even more difficult. Here at South Florida Intervention, we have worked with families who struggled with co-occurring addiction and depression. We know what it is like and have the expertise to guide you so that recovery is within reach. We commit to the best client service by helping you design the best treatment plans for yourself or your loved one. Our goal is for you to experience sustainable recovery and wholeness. You will have the best team to work with. Our experienced interventionists can provide you with recovering coaching, parent coaching, case management, and sober escort. Please do not wait another day. Early intervention is key to long-term success. Call us today at (202) 390-2273.