According to the National Institute of Health, depression is a common but serious mood disorder that causes severe symptoms. These symptoms — feelings of hopelessness, sadness, irritability, and decreased energy, among others — affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.
For those who are not familiar with what depression, chances are they have a lot of questions.
To help you get a better understanding, here are 10 commonly asked questions – and their answers – about depression.
Are there multiple types of depression?
Psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator Toni Coleman told INSIDER that, although clinical depression is the type of depression most talked about, that is not the only type of depression that people fall victim to.
“Too often, people have a fixed idea of depression as the clinical type, which is long-standing and where people have trouble getting out of bed, neglect their self-care, cannot manage daily responsibilities, and/or develop suicidal thoughts/actions,” she said. “While this is one severe form of depression, it is only one.
“There is also situational depression. This is the kind that is experienced by someone with no history of depression who suffers a loss, a traumatic event, or is diagnosed with a chronic disease. In this situation, the depression can be more severe at first, but the person is better able to function, utilize supports and often responds more quickly to counseling and other interventions.”
Isn’t being depressed just being sad?
Though depression is often mistaken for a person just simply being sad, they are not always identical. And while they are sometimes caused because of one another, Dr. Kevin Gilliland – PsyD and executive director of Innovation360 – said that you should learn the difference between the two.
“Sadness is a symptom of depression but we also have periods of time, especially a loss, when we feel sad,” he said. “Typically, that sadness lessons with time. Depression, however, differs from sadness in its duration and intensity. Depression is experienced daily and extends into weeks and months causing a decrease in how we function at work, with family and friends, and physically feeling drained and hopeless. That’s not normal and it often gets better when we get help.”
Can you be depressed even if you have everything you need?
Finding out someone that has everything is struggling with depression may seem counterproductive to some, but it should actually serve as a realization that depression isn’t selective.
“I wish the treatment for depression was just getting people everything they need. It’s not,” Dr. Gilliland said. “I see people with very little of what they need and they don’t experience depression. A few decades of very good research has helped us understand that there can be a number of factors that influence whether or not we experience a depressed episode.
“Factors such as our genetics (it runs in the family), our unique individual brain chemistry, and significant life events like the loss of a job, loved one, or traumatic event. Perhaps one of the more challenging depressive episodes for people to see in themselves is when they look at their life and don’t see a “reason” to feel the way they do. That happens for some people. The important thing to see is that there has been a change in how we function, a significant decrease in our enjoyment in life, and a fatigue or lack of energy, unlike anything we have ever experienced. If that’s the case, see a healthcare professional to find out if you have depression. It’s treatable and there are a lot of options.”
Aren’t you too old to be depressed?
Contrary to popular belief, depression has nothing to do with age. Just like you aren’t too old to be depressed, there’s no specific age that depression can start either.
“No matter what stage in life, depression can affect anyone. It’s actually quite common to see this illness in older adults,” Dr. Moutier said. “We find that retired adults can become depressed, as they have been used to a daily routine and a sense of purpose by being employed. It’s important when someone experiences significant life changes, such as retiring, to stay busy and active with routine activities.”
What are some of the signs of depression that get overlooked?
Knowing how to differentiate between being sad and being depressed is one way to be helpful to yourself or someone you know that has depression, but that’s only one part to it. According to licensed marriage and family therapist Virginia Williamson, there are many other signs that you need to keep an eye out for to be as knowledgeable on the subject as possible.
“Ambivalence, an inability or marked difficulty in making decisions, can be an indicator of depression,” she said. “Depression can cause a person to lose confidence in themselves and therefore not trust their own judgment. It can be something as minor as what they would like to eat and as important as whether or not to have another child. This doesn’t mean indecisiveness is always linked to depression but if it is hindering your life, it’s worth taking a look at.
“Indifference, simply put, just not caring about things one way or another anymore, is also a characteristic of depression. If you find that you no longer feel passionate about most things in your life that once brought you joy and fulfillment, consider the possibility that it may be a sign of depression. The best reason to explore this is that there are ways that you can restore your interest and excitement about your life.
“Increased irritability, which you may only feel internally and not express to those around you, can result from depression. This could be experienced as a lack of patience and generally feeling annoyed at people and situations in your life that would typically roll off of you. Others may view it as moodiness or attribute it to a time of high stress, however if it persists and remains uncomfortable, it is likely affecting your quality of life.”
What do I do if I think I’m depressed?
In some cases, people aren’t even aware that they are suffering from depression. But just because a person isn’t sure, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And according to Williamson, there are a few things you can do if you think you’re depressed.
“Consult your primary care physician first to rule out any medical conditions that could be causing your symptoms; for example, a thyroid disorder or a hormonal change,” she said.
“Do some research about lifestyle changes that you can make to address how you are feeling. For example, implementing a more regular exercise routine, cutting back on certain foods and alcohol consumption, adding supplements that are shown to boost mood (it’s best to speak to a homeopathic physician about supplements to be sure that you are taking the correct dose and also obtaining them from a reputable source.) Resist the urge to isolate and instead, spend time with family and friends that you love. If it’s appropriate, seek support from them about what you are going through. Ask for some referrals for a therapist in your area who works with depression. It’s always a good idea to look at therapy as prevention and be proactive, rather than waiting for symptoms to wreak havoc on your life before you get help.”
Does medication solve the problem?
Another common misconception about depression is that medicating is the best and only solution to fixing the issue. Dr. Indra Cidambi — double board-certified psychiatrist, addiction medicine specialist, and founder of the Center for Network Therapy— told INSIDER though that this is not true.
About 80% of prescriptions for antidepressants are written by primary care providers, not psychiatrists, and they are prescribed for a variety of complaints including anxiety, insomnia, panic and pain disorders.
About one in eight Americans over the age of 12 reported recent antidepressant use. Even when prescribed correctly for a well-diagnosed depression disorder, medication needs to be accompanied by therapy, which is not a likely recommendation by a primary care physician.
Can you be depressed without knowing why?
Many people who suffer from depression can’t place exactly why they feel the way that they feel. And to those who know them, this can be frustrating and confusing.
“Depression isn’t necessarily a light switch that gets thrown on. It can be a gradual state one gets to slowly,” licensed psychologist and founder of Therapy for Adults Steven Reigns told INSIDER. “It’s best to be aware of signs. If one no longer receives enjoyment out of numerous activities that previously brought them joy, that would be a concerning sign.”
Is it possible to just get over it?
Those who are suffering from depression have probably been told to “just get over it” more times than they care to count and perhaps mostly by someone that they love. And while it may seem like depression is something that you can shake yourself out of automatically, this way of thinking can actually be more harmful than helpful.
“Depression is often minimized and thought of as just a period of time in one’s life when a person is sad or going through challenging times,” chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Dr. Christine Moutier said. “Feeling sad is a normal healthy emotion or reaction to an event, but, depression is a medical illness with neurobiological and genetic underpinnings, and can be addressed with biological and psychological treatments. Many treatments are available, like medications, various forms of talk therapy, and other biological treatments such as brain stimulation modalities like electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic therapy, and vagal nerve stimulation.
“An important strategy for anyone experiencing depression is to find the treatment that works best for the individual. Most often, for moderate to severe depression or when it lasts longer than several months, the most effective starting strategy is to combine medication with psychotherapy. Several therapies have been proven effective for treating depression. Common therapies include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and behavioral activation (BH). Many therapists will appropriately integrate various modalities such as insight-oriented therapy with a cognitive approach. For some people, they may find that brain stimulation is the most effective type of treatment, also usually in concert with medication. “
Do only women get depressed?
Depression is commonly associated with women who have children, but what about men? Unfortunately, the correlation between the two isn’t talked about as much as it should. And it’s talked about even less if you are a man of color.
“Contrary to popular assumptions, men get depression too,” Dr. Moutier told INSIDER. “Unfortunately, men often do not seek support because they’re worried about being vulnerable – something society has told men for generations that they can’t be. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and men die by suicide at a rate 3.53 times greater than women.”
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