What is Depression?
Depression is an emotional disorder in which individuals feels sadness beyond that usually experienced within the normal course of daily events. Individuals who are depressed feel sadness or emptiness that is significantly more intense or prolonged than typical everyday sadness.
Depression may include symptoms such as:
- Tearfulness and crying
- Decreases in interest or pleasure in enjoyable activates
- Changes in appetite or weight change (gain or loss)
- Changes in sleep pattern (insomnia or excessive sleeping)
- Restlessness or sluggishness
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt
- Fatigue, loss of energy
- Trouble concentrating, making decisions
- Low self-esteem
- Suicidal thoughts, thoughts about death
Depression can occur at any age. Depression is a fairly common in that 5-25% of individuals will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. Women are diagnosed with depression more frequently than men. In children and adolescents, depression may manifest more as irritability than sadness.
Depression is a serious illness that should not be left untreated. Depression can be dangerous in that it can sometimes lead to suicide.
How is Depression treated?
There are two types of treatments that work for depression: cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication.
Cognitive therapy works by helping patients identify unhealthy thoughts that underlie or perpetuate their depression and teaching them to change these thought patterns. Depressed individuals often engage in irrational thinking and make cognitive errors that lead to negative and painful thoughts. In therapy, patients learn to systematically change these thoughts and thought processes. By changing their thought patterns, patients are able to change their emotional state.
Behavioral techniques are also used to help alleviate depression. For example, patients are instructed to engage in reinforcing and pleasurable activities. Participation in fun activities, even if one starts out by "faking it", eventually causes pleasure and enjoyment.
Medication is also used to treat the symptoms of depression. In cases where the depression is severe, medication is particularly important in helping control the symptoms of depression. The therapist works with the patient's psychiatrist to ensure that their symptoms are being treated both therapeutically and medically.