Updated on May 1, 2024
4 min read

Depression: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or clinical depression, is a serious mental health condition. It's more than just feeling sad or down for a few days—it impacts how a person feels, thinks, and functions daily.

While the exact cause of depression is complex, it's likely a mix of things like genetics, brain chemistry, life experiences, and even other health conditions. What's important to know is that depression is nobody's fault. It's a real medical condition, not a sign of weakness or a dramatic condition.

The good news is that depression is treatable. With a combination of therapy, medication (if needed), and healthy lifestyle adjustments, most people can find relief from their symptoms. If you think you or someone you love might be struggling with depression, it's important to seek help.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. It often starts in young adulthood, but it can develop at any point in life. People with depression may experience a mix of emotional, physical, and mental changes that make everyday life feel overwhelming.

Depression symptoms can include changes in your mood, your body, and how you think. To be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), symptoms must be present most of the day, almost every day, for at least two weeks. Remember, everyone experiences depression differently.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless most of the time
  • Getting easily irritated, frustrated, or angry, even over small things
  • Feeling worthless or guilty, often dwelling on past failures
  • Losing interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling anxious, restless, or agitated

Physical Symptoms

  • Changes in appetite or weight that aren't intentional
  • Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling tired or lacking energy, even with rest
  • Unexplained aches, pains, or digestive problems

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide, or even suicide attempts

Depression looks different in different people. Children, teens, and older adults may have unique symptoms. It’s not a weakness, but a real medical condition, and seeking treatment is a sign of strength.

Treatment Options for Major Depressive Disorder

There are many effective treatments for depression. Working with a healthcare provider or therapist, you'll create a personalized plan that may include several of the following:

  • Antidepressants: These are the most common medications for depression. Different types work slightly differently, and your doctor will help find the right one for you.
  • Other medications: Sometimes, mood stabilizers or antipsychotic medications are used along with antidepressants.

Treatment can also include different therapies, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). These methods teach ways to change negative thoughts and behaviors. Supportive therapy, mindfulness-based therapies, and other strategies can also be helpful.

Sometimes hospitalization is necessary for severe depression, especially if there is a risk of self-harm. They provide additional structure and support if regular outpatient therapy isn't enough.

What are Somatic Therapies (Brain Stimulation)?

For severe depression or when medication and talk therapy haven't been effective, other options exist. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) may be a highly effective treatment in such cases.

Noninvasive brain stimulation techniques, such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and others, may also be helpful for some people.

Can Lifestyle Changes Help with Depression?

Eating well supports overall health and may even improve mood. Meanwhile, regular physical activity can significantly help reduce symptoms of depression. Yoga, meditation, or acupuncture can be beneficial alongside other treatments.


Online Therapy Can Help

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Things to Keep in Mind During Depression Treatment

Finding the right treatment for depression often takes time and patience. You and your doctor might need to try different medications, therapies, or a combination of approaches before finding what works best for you.

If you're taking antidepressants, your doctor should closely monitor you, especially in the early stages of treatment. Be open about any side effects or concerns you have.

Remember, treating depression is a partnership between you and your healthcare team.  Working together, communicating openly, and being willing to adjust your treatment plan as needed are essential for managing depression and improving your quality of life.

Reaching out to a mental health professional is the first step towards finding the right treatment and support. With time, patience, and the right care, it is possible to manage depression, reclaim your life, and find hope for the future.

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Updated on May 1, 2024

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