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What is Depression?

Updated: Sep 30, 2018

Do you feel like you’ve been in a funk you can’t seem to get out of? Have you noticed yourself isolating and spending more time alone? Are you concerned you might be struggling with depression?

Depression is a mood disorder, and one of the most prevalent mental health disorders in the United States. Although it is a common diagnosis, this does not take away from its serious nature. There are different forms of depression varying in severity and presentation, as well depression due to specific circumstances.

Terms you may have heard in relation to depression are clinical depression, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Each subset of depression has it’s own diagnostic criteria and associated symptoms. Depression can manifest itself in a multitude of ways, no two individuals will have the exact same experience. An individual struggling with depression may encounter symptoms including but not limited to decreased energy or fatigue, lack of enjoyment, numbness, irritability, hopelessness, difficulty or increased sleeping, suicidal thoughts or attempts, self-harm, and substance use.

The etiology (or cause) of depression is often a combination of biological and psychological components. People with depression may have chemical or hormonal imbalances, and are frequently predisposed to depression because of genetic factors. Genetics are not the answer to all the elements of depression in adolescents and adults, yet it is common for environmental factors to trigger biological tendencies of depression.

Even the most severe cases of depression are treatable. Psychotherapy is very effective in treating depression, however, the earlier on one seeks therapy the more beneficial it is. At times it is necessary to incorporate medication into the treatment plan. However, when taking medication it is important to do so in conjunction with therapy in order to work towards correcting the underlying issues and triggers of one’s depression. Additionally, it is imperative that clients learn healthy coping skills in order to decrease depressive symptoms and increase emotional regulation. A few effective coping skills specific to depression are exercising, journaling, reaching out to your support system, spending time in nature, and challenging negative thinking.

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