What is Depression?

Depression is a common, yet serious medical condition. You may experience depression for any number of reasons, but it’s not a sign of personal weakness and it’s not a passing emotion that can be ignored. For those who seek help, depression is a very treatable condition.

At Mercy, we offer treatment with compassion, dignity and respect to help you or your loved one overcome the challenge of depression and restore a healthy emotional balance.

Types of Depression

There are several different types of depression. Your Mercy behavioral health provider can help identify which type of depression you have and plan treatment accordingly.

Also called Major Depression or Clinical Depression, MDD is a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

Also called Dysthymia, PDD is a mild but long-term type of depression. It’s defined as a low mood occurring for at least two years, along with feelings of low energy and self-esteem.

A serious mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings including emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression).

SAD causes seasonal depression that typically occurs at the same time each year. It’s especially common in areas where seasonal changes cause reductions in sunlight during winter. Symptoms include lethargy, depression and social withdrawal.

When major depression is accompanied by psychosis, it’s called Psychotic Depression or Depression with Psychosis. PD is a temporary mental state characterized by abnormal perceptions that may include delusions and hallucinations. 

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a very common form of depression that impacts women after childbirth. Symptoms include irritability, loss of appetite, insomnia and difficulty bonding with the baby. PPD is treatable, but without treatment, it can last for several months or even longer.

While premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is fairly common among menstruating women, PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. It causes physical and behavioral symptoms the week before menstruation and typically gets better with the onset of menstruation.

SD refers to short-term feelings of depression that accompany a traumatic or challenging life event. The symptoms are often like those of major depression.

Depression Causes & Risk Factors

Although the causes of depression are not fully known, they are likely a combination of factors. Risk factors for depression include:

  • genetics or family history of depression
  • brain chemistry
  • personal life circumstances.

Depression can strike at any time but commonly appears during late adolescence to mid-20s. Women are more likely to experience depression than men. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode during their lifetime.

Depression in Adolescents

Childhood and adolescence can be difficult, creating a range of emotions that may be hard to manage. Sometimes, the ups and downs are serious enough to warrant professional help. Learn more about depression in children and adolescents

Depression & Serious Medical Diagnoses

Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition like cancer is frightening. Feelings of depression are common for both patients and family members. It's normal to feel sadness and grief. The future may seem uncertain. Your dreams may be on hold temporarily. But if sadness lingers for a long time or you or a loved one are having trouble coping with daily life, you may need professional help.  

Signs & Symptoms of Depression

It’s important to know the symptoms of depression and ask for help if you or your loved one is depressed. Symptoms vary from mild to severe and must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression. These may include:

  • Prolonged sadness, sometimes including frequent crying
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite, weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Repeated movements (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Easily irritated
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of self-harm, death or suicide

It’s important to discuss symptoms with your doctor because certain medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumor or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression. Your doctor will do an examination to rule out general medical causes.

Understanding Depression

Depression negatively impacts how you feel, think and act. It causes feelings of deep sadness and emptiness that in extreme cases can lead to thoughts of suicide. Depression can last for weeks or even months. Some people who are depressed experience a variety of emotional and physical problems, including a loss of interest in things that once brought joy, or decreased ability to function at work and at home.

Life can be hard. The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship are difficult experiences. It’s normal to feel grief or sadness when these things happen. But feeling sad is different from having depression. Mercy therapists understand this and can help you or a loved one get the right help, support or treatment.

Diagnosis & Treatment for Depression

If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of depression, Mercy's behavioral health specialists are here to help.

Learn about depression diagnosis and treatment options here.

If you or a loved one is feeling depressed and experiencing thoughts of suicide, call 911 or go to a Mercy Emergency Department for immediate help.

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