Depression is a medical condition that affects a person’s mood and ability to function. Depression types include clinical, bipolar, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder, and others. Treatment options range from counseling to medications to brain stimulation and complementary therapies.

An Overview of Depression?

Depression symptoms include feeling sad, anxious or hopeless. The condition can also cause difficulty with thinking, memory, eating and sleeping. A diagnosis of major depressive disorder (clinical depression) means an individual has experienced sadness, low or worthless feelings most days for at least two weeks, and are having other symptoms such as sleep problems, loss of interest in activities, or change in appetite. Without treatment, depression can get worse and last longer. In severe cases, it can lead to self-harm or death. Fortunately, treatments can be very effective in improving symptoms of depression.

How Common Is Depression?

Depression is experienced all over the world. Healthcare providers estimate that nearly 7% of American adults have depression each year. More than 16% of U.S. adults — around 1 in 6 — will experience depression in their lifetime.

What Are The Types Of Depression?

Depression is categorized according to symptoms and causes. Some types have no obvious cause and for some people, depression can linger much longer and for no clear reason.

Types of depression include:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or Major Depression/Clinical Depression has intense or overwhelming symptoms that last longer than two weeks. These symptoms interfere with daily life.
  • Bipolar Depression - Those suffering with bipolar disorder have alternating periods of low moods and extremely high energy, manic  feelings. During the low period, they may have depression symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness or lacking energy.
  • Perinatal and Postpartum Depression - “Perinatal” means around birth and many people refer to this type as Postpartum Depression. Perinatal depression can occur during pregnancy and up to one year after having a baby. Symptoms go beyond “the baby blues,” which cause minor sadness, worry or stress.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) - PDD is also known as Dysthymia. Symptoms of PDD are less severe than major depression, but people experience PDD symptoms for two years or longer.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) - Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a severe form of Premenstrual Disorder (PMS). It affects women in the days or weeks leading up to their menstrual period.
  • Psychotic Depression - People with psychotic depression have severe depressive symptoms and delusions or hallucinations. Delusions are beliefs in things that are not based in reality, while hallucinations involve seeing, hearing, or feeling touched by things that aren’t actually there.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - Seasonal Depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, usually starts in late fall and early winter. It often goes away during the spring and summer.

What Are The Symptoms Of Depression?

Depression can affect person’s emotions, mind and body. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling very sad, hopeless or worried.
  • Not enjoying things that used to bring joy.
  • Being easily irritated or frustrated.
  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Changes duration of sleep and sleep patterns.
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
  • Experiencing physical problems like headache, stomachache or sexual dysfunction.
  • Thinking about hurting or killing oneself.

If you or someone you know has thoughts of hurting themselves, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. This national network of local crisis centers provides free, private emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Causes And Risk Factors

Various factors can cause depression:

  • Brain chemistry. Abnormalities in brain chemical levels may lead to depression.
  • Genetics. Those with family members suffering from depression are predisposed for it.
  • Life Events. Stress, the death of a loved one, upsetting events/trauma, isolation and lack of support can cause depression.
  • Medical Conditions. Ongoing physical pain and illnesses can cause depression. People often have depression along with conditions such as diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Medication. Some medications have depression as a side effect. Recreational drugs and alcohol can also cause depression or increase its severity.
  • Personality. People who are easily overwhelmed or have trouble coping may be prone to depression.

Diagnosis and Tests

Everyone may feel sad or down from time to time. However, Clinical Depression has more intense symptoms that last two weeks or longer.

To determine whether someone is suffering from clinical depression, a healthcare provider will ask questions, may have a patient complete a questionnaire, and provide a family history. Healthcare providers may also perform an exam or order lab tests to check for other medical conditions.

Management and Treatment

Depression can be serious, but it’s also treatable. Treatments for depression include:

  • Self-Help - Regular exercise, proper sleep, and spending time with loved ones can improve depression symptoms.
  • Counseling. Counseling or psychotherapy is talking with a mental health professional. Counselors help patients address their problems and develop coping skills. Sometimes brief therapy is all that is needed. Others may require longer therapy.
  • Alternative Medicine. People with mild depression or ongoing symptoms can improve their well-being with complementary therapy. This type of therapy may include massage, acupuncture, hypnosis and biofeedback.
  • Medication. Prescription medicine, such as antidepressants can help change brain chemistry that causes depression. Antidepressants can take a few weeks to have an effect. Some antidepressants have side effects, which often improve with time. If patients don’t see an improvement with depression symptoms or if the side effects don’t subside, they should consult with their providers, as there are alternative prescriptions and one may work better for them.
  • Brain Stimulation Therapy. Brain Stimulation Therapy can help people who have severe depression or depression with psychosis. Types of brain stimulation therapy include Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS).


Depression can affect anyone, no matter their age, gender or circumstances. About 16 million Americans experience depression each year. Genetics and other health conditions can increase the likelihood that certain individuals will have at least one depressive episode in his/her lifetime.

Can Depression Be Prevented?

Depression  may be prevented by getting proper sleep, eating a healthy diet, and practicing regular self-care activities such as exercise, meditation and yoga.

If a person has suffered depression, he/she may be more likely to experience it again. If you or anyone you know has depression symptoms, GET HELP. Care can help you feel better sooner.

Prognosis For Those With Depression

Depression can be mild or severe and it can be brief or long-lasting. It’s important to get help right away.

Without treatment, depression can:

  • Become worse.
  • Increase a person’s chance of other health conditions, like dementia.
  • Lead to self-harm or death.
  • Return, even after a person starts to feel better.

Living With Depression

Those with symptoms of depression, should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. They can provide an accurate diagnosis, make a referral to a specialist and/or suggest treatment options.

If you or someone you know is thinking of hurting themselves or taking their own life:

  • Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
  • Go to the emergency department of a local hospital.
  • Contact a healthcare provider.
  • Speak to a trusted friend, family member or spiritual leader.

Depression is treatable. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can feel better.