What Is Depression

Written By: Butler Hospital on September 21, 2020

Depression is a serious medical illness that will affect 1 out of 6 people at some point in their life. Depression impairs a person’s ability to function as they normally would, such as decreased social activity, and decreased productivity at work or school. 

Along with depressed mood, individuals most commonly experience decreased motivation and interest in doing things they previously enjoyed or could perform with less effort. Depression commonly interferes with sleep and appetite. 

If untreated, it may lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness. Ultimately, depression is a disabling brain disease that can interfere with all aspects of life and contribute to other medical and psychiatric problems.

Major Types of Depression

Three types of depressive disorders are most common.

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) can range in severity and may include some or all of the following symptoms for at least two consecutive weeks: 
    • Sadness
    • Loss of interest, motivation, or pleasure
    •  Decreased energy
    • Changes in appetite, sleep, or concentration
    • Thoughts of death or suicide
    • Physical slowing or restlessness
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt. 
      Such a disabling episode may happen only once in a lifetime, but more commonly it occurs more than once.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (previously called ‘Dysthymia’) is a less acutely disabling form of depression that afflicts a person most of the time for at least two years. An episode of MDD may occur before, during, or after persistent depressive disorder. It affects about 10 times fewer people than MDD.
  • Bipolar Disorder (known informally as ‘manic-depressive’ illness) may have the same symptoms and experiences as someone with MDD, but at least once in their life have experienced a ‘manic’ episode. 

    A manic episode may be described as the “opposite” of depression, in that a person has symptoms of high energy and activity. Motivation also tends to be high, although people are often easily distracted, and so productivity may not be better. Energy is usually markedly increased with less need for sleep. 

    Notably, there is often some change in personality that may be noticed by others as impulsive, grandiose (inflated sense of one’s abilities or position), or talkative. There is usually a ‘crash’ afterward with severe depressive symptoms, and commonly individuals make detrimental decisions in this state.
What Causes Depression?

Similar to many medical illnesses like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or cancer, depression results from both inherited and environmental causes. 

Depression often runs in families, and an identical twin has a 70% chance of having depression if their counterpart has depression. Environmental factors like exposure to abuse, neglect, or other extreme stressors also increase the likelihood of depression. Single-life episodes may trigger a depressive episode. Some people suffer from low self-esteem, are easily overwhelmed, or have other personality traits that can increase the likelihood of depression. 

Whether genetic or environmental, both cause changes in brain cells at the level of DNA and protein production that disrupt normal brain function. Treatments can reverse these changes.

Seeking Treatment

With the uptick in mental health concerns across the country, it can be difficult to find a therapist or doctor in a timely manner. It can require a lot of work on the phone to find the right level of care and fit.  

At Butler Hospital, there is a 24/7 call intake line: 1-844-401-0111, where a clinician can assist you in determining the next best step for you or a loved one within one brief phone call. They will be sure you understand your options and if you or your loved one are ready, they will assist you in putting the recommended plan in motion.  

Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis.  If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.