‘Depression’ is a term that most of us tend to use rather casually.  Examples of this may be: “my team lost last night…I’m so depressed” or “I’m so depressed, my babysitter backed out last minute so now I can’t go out for girls’ night tonight”.  Although most people in the American culture use the word depressed or depression, do we really know what it means?  What does it truly mean to be depressed?  Furthermore, how can a person know if they, or someone they know suffers from Depression?  The following is a brief discussion of what depression is, signs to look for, and how to deal with depression if you or someone you care about is suffering from it.

Depression can be defined (according to Webster’s Dictionary), as ‘a state of feeling sad’.  Most people would attest to having at least one period of time in their life in which they are in ‘a state of feeling sad’, however, it was a transient occurrence, and passed with time or with a change in life-circumstances.  This may be termed as “situational depression” and is caused by occurrences that are connected to one’s situation of life i.e.:  a loss is suffered (death of loved one, loss of a job, a breakup, a change in functioning level, etc.), a life-change occurs (a move, retirement, empty-nest, etc.), or perhaps it is connected to a spiritual crisis of some sort.  In the case of “situational depression” however, the person will recover and resume life and not require ongoing treatment.  In this case the depression suffered is attributed to the situation and not a biological/biochemical issue.  To address this type of depression there are many options for treatment which include:  talking to someone trustworthy (counselor, pastor, friend, etc.), journaling, prayer and meditation on Scripture, and at times taking an antidepressant medication for a limited period of time.  In contrast to “situational depression” is clinical depression, also called Major depression.  This type of depression is related to the way that an individual’s brain functions and may be caused by the neural circuits in the brain functioning in an abnormal manner.  Clinical depression is considered to be a “brain disorder” and results in symptoms such as:  loss of interest in things once enjoyed, persistent sadness, crying spells, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, a change in sleep patterns, a change in appetite, low energy levels, and at times suicidal thoughts.  Clinical depression involves a depressed mood lasting most of the day for an extended period of time (at least 2 weeks) and results in impairment of daily life.  Depression can vary in severity from mild to severe.  Clinical Depression is a common and highly treatable condition.  Treatment options include:  Counseling, support groups, and Antidepressant medications.  Women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men.  Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious condition that can result from child birth.  Many women suffer from “baby blues” which is lower in severity and usually goes away between 1 and 2 weeks of delivery.  In contrast to “baby blues”, PPD is a severe form of clinical depression and requires treatment for the wellbeing of the mother as well as the wellbeing of the baby.  PPD can start at any point during the first year following the birth of a child and is attributed to the quick change in hormone levels associated with child birth.  PPD is also highly treatable through counseling and antidepressant medications.

In summary, depression can vary in severity and in duration.  We may feel depressed as a result of a life-circumstance or as a result of a medical issue.  If you suspect that you are suffering from depression please seek help i.e.:  talk to a counselor, talk to your doctor, etc.  Depression is a common and highly treatable condition.  If you ever have thoughts of hurting yourself or anyone else seek help immediately.  (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255)


Written by:  Jessie Cronn, MAMFT, LPC