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What is Depression?


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Everyone experiences sad feelings from time to time. From feeling down and lethargic to not wanting to spend time with family and friends, being down in the dumps happens in life. when these feelings of sadness stick around, it could indicate clinical depression. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that about 5% of adults across the globe suffer from depression. That’s about 280 million adults living with some type of depression. When it comes to those under the age of 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports about 3.7% of children aged three to 17 years have been diagnosed with depression. That’s nearly 2 million youth in the United States alone living with depression.

Depression can have detrimental impacts on all areas of a person’s life. Not only does the individual live with the feelings of sadness on a daily basis, but this also affects how they function. Depression can impede a person’s work, school, and social life. Often, when someone has depression, they are unable to function well let alone at their full potential. 

At its worst, depression can result in suicide. The WHO reports that each year about 700,000 people across the world die by suicide. In the U.S., the CDC reports that there are nearly 50,000 suicides annually. 

Depression is real. Depression not only robs a person and their loved ones of precious moments in life, but it can also kill. It’s essential to understand more about what depression is, what it looks like in adults, youth, and the elderly, and how to get effective treatment for it. 

October 7 is National Depression Screening Day observed across the United States. This day’s aim is to not only get more people struggling with depression diagnosed and treated but also to raise awareness of the prevalence of depression in our great nation and help more people in need to get help.

 What are the Most Common Types of Depression? 

Depression is a mood disorder. There are several types of depression and depression can be mild, moderate, or severe. The Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) lists certain criteria to determine depression. The number of criteria met helps to determine if the depression is mild, moderate, or severe. This also helps to steer the course of treatment. 

As mentioned, there are different types of depression. Let’s explore a few:

Clinical or Major Depression

Clinical depression is one of the most common types of mental health disorders. Clinical depression can begin at any time and under any circumstances. This mood disorder is characterized by a persistent sad or depressed mood. In addition, the loss of interest in activities is also common with major or clinical depression.

Signs of Clinical Depression

  • Having feelings of hopelessness
  • Having feelings of sadness and emptiness
  • Having decreased interest or complete lack of interest in formerly enjoyed activities
  • Having feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or being helpless
  • Having a lack of energy, feelings of fatigue
  • Having feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • Experiencing changes in eating habits
  • Experiencing changes in sleep patterns
  • Experiencing physical problems such as stomach issues, headaches, aches and pains
  • Having trouble making decisions, focusing, or remembering
  • Having suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

The DSM-V states that these symptoms need to be present for at least two weeks to be diagnosed with depression. 

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder or bipolar depression is not the same as clinical depression and is characterized by very low ‘lows’ and very high ‘highs’. The symptoms during the lows are reflective of the same symptoms of clinical or major depression. However, the symptoms during the manic stages are not. These manic or euphoric stages can be extreme (mania) or in some cases a bit less extreme (hypomania). 

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

(Manic episode)

  • Having high amounts of energy
  • Having a reduced need for sleep
  • Being out of touch with reality

(Depressive episode)

  • Having low amounts of energy
  • Experiencing a lack of motivation
  • Having feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Experiencing a loss of interest in activities

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

This type of depression most commonly occurs during the winter months in regions where there is much less sun at that time of year. With SAD, once the spring and summer months return, the depression lifts. 

Signs of SAD

  • Experiencing social withdrawal
  • Engaging in sleeping more
  • Experiencing changes in weight particularly weight gain
  • Experiencing feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Experiencing lack of motivation and fatigue

When it comes to SAD and how it is different from clinical depression is that these symptoms generally stop once the increased hours of sunlight return. As awareness of SAD grows, so too do the diagnoses. 

Signs of Depression in Adolescents and the Elderly

Many of the signs of depression from one type to the next are similar. So too, are some of the signs of depression in both adolescents and the elderly. However, depression in both of these groups can present a bit differently so it’s vital to understand these differences. 

Signs of Depression in Adolescents and Teens

When it comes to our nation’s youth, many are struggling with mental health disorders including depression. However, these mental health disorders may mask one another making diagnosis and effective treatment delayed. According to the CDC, one out of two children diagnosed with depression also has behavioral problems. 

In addition to the typical signs of depression, the following are also symptoms of depression in teens and adolescents:

  • Being grumpy or cranky
  • Being more sensitive to being told ‘no’ or perceived rejection
  • Crying more often
  • Experiencing vocal outbursts such as yelling and tantrums
  • Experiencing problems interacting with friends, family, and teachers
  • Having a loss of interest in sports and extracurricular activities once enjoyed
  • Thinking or talking about suicide

It’s important to understand that not all youth will show all of these signs. In fact, most often some show some signs and they tend to change from one situation to the next as well as during different times. For older youth and teens, there may be a start of alcohol or drug use during this time as well. 

With suicide rates increasing in youth, it’s vital to be aware of depression and the signs of it. Today, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 to 24 years old. If you are depressed or feeling suicidal you are not alone. Call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 or text to 741741 for any type of teen crisis. 

Depression in the elderly can also manifest in different ways. Some of the signs of depression in the elderly are written off as typical aging issues, however, too often that isn’t the case and depression goes undiagnosed. If an elderly person has experienced depression earlier in life, they are more likely to develop it later in life. 

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) there are four types of depression more common amongst the elderly. All of these are treatable. 

  1. Major depressive disorder
  2. Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)
  3. Substance/medication-induced depressive disorder
  4. Depressive disorder associated with a medical condition

Depression in older adults is linked to higher rates of cardiac issues. In addition, older adults who have medical problems and depression have lower rates of rehabilitation. This is possibly due to depression causing lack of motivation, problems with sleep and eating, and more. 

In addition to the typical signs of depression other signs of depression in older adults can include any of the following:

  • Feeling tired often
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling confused
  • Being grumpy or irritable
  • Experiencing trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Stopping engaging in activities they used to enjoy
  • Enduring aches and pains without seeking help for them
  • Moving slowly
  • Having changes in appetite or weight

It’s important to realize that depression and suicide are real threats to the elderly. In fact, the NIMH considers depression in those over 65 to be a significant public health problem. Suicide in this age group is an issue too with those in the age range of 80 to 84 years old having twice the risk for suicide as the general population. 

No matter what age, gender, race, socio-economic or educational background someone has, they can have depression. And, no matter what type of depression someone has or how severe it is, treatment for depression works. 

Treatments for depression typically can include psychotherapy or counseling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical-behavior therapy are both types of therapies that have been found to be effective in treating several types of depression. In addition, medications may be used to help. Each course of treatment is based on factors specific to the individual in need. 

It’s also important to note that about 20% of those with a mental health disorder such as depression also have an alcohol or substance use disorder. This is called having co-occurring disorders. Often, those with a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety will ‘self-medicate’ in order to relieve some discomfort. Sadly, this can turn into a problem of its own and often exacerbates the original problem. As time goes on, one problem can make the other worse and vice versa. 

If there is a co-occurring disorder suspected or present it’s essential to find a treatment center that is experienced and successful in treating both disorders. At Futures Recovery Healthcare our compassionate experts treat mental health disorders including depression, alcohol use disorders, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders. 

Depression can be paralyzing. It can rob you of the joys of daily life and make it seem impossible to feel better. However, that isn’t the case. Treatment for depression works. It has worked for thousands of others and can work for you or your loved one too. 

If you are in immediate crisis or feeling depressed, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255. You can also visit them online to chat or learn more. These services are free and confidential and available 24/7. 

When you’re ready to get help for depression, another mood disorder, or treatment for addiction or co-occurring disorders, Futures is here for you. Learn more about our co-occurring disorders program, our mental health program, and our substance abuse programs today. Call us at 866-804-2098. You aren’t alone and you don’t have to suffer any longer—we can help!


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