What is Depression?

The word "depression" causes much confusion. It is often used to describe when someone is feeling "low", "miserable", "in a mood", or having "got out of bed on the wrong side". However, doctors use the word in two different ways. They can use it to describe the symptom of a "low mood", or to refer to a specific illness, i.e. a "depressive disorder".

Officially, there are two definitions of the depression, reflecting the two approaches highlighted above:
  1. The condition of feeling sad or despondent.
  2. A psychiatric disorder characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, loss of appetite, anhedonia, feelings of extreme sadness, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness, and thoughts of death. Also called clinical depression.
This confusion is made all the worse because it is often difficult to tell the difference between feeling gloomy and having a depressive illness. Doctors make a diagnosis of depression after assessing the severity of the low mood, other associated symptoms and the duration of the problem. 

Depression is very common. Almost anybody can develop the illness; it is certainly NOT a sign of weakness. Depression is also treatable. You may need to see a doctor, but there are things you can do yourself or things you can do to help somebody suffering from the illness. What you cannot do is 'PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER' - no matter whether this is what you think you should be able to do, or what other people tell you to do. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression.

People who have experienced an episode of depression are at risk of developing another in the future. A small proportion may experience an episode of depression as part of a bipolar affective disorder (manic depression) that is characterized by episodes of both low and high moods.

As any illness, especially psychiatric disorder, depression affects not just the person, its personal life and professional activities, and influences its family and loved one as well. Therefore, understanding and accepting the disorder as a matter of fact is essential for all the family members. By applying unprofessional irresponsible pressure on the person, you can make matter much worse and let the “enemy inside” grow out of proportions and abilities to apply the adequate treatment. Note that prompt medical treatment might stop or even reverse the disease development, while lack of proper response might lead to the most severe health conditions.

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