Depression – The most Frequently Asked Questions


15 min read
Is depression a mental illness?

Mental illnesses or mental health disorders are terms used to describe a persistent state of mind that can cause significant impairment in your day to day functioning in life. There is a wide spectrum of these illnesses, often based on a combination of psychological, biological as well as social factors. Depression, like other mental illnesses,  is one of the most common mental illnesses and requires the diagnosis of a professional. Research goes on to say that depression can also cause changes in brain function and release of hormones that are responsible for emotional as well as physical symptoms of depression.

Do I have depression?

Life can be tough sometimes and it is completely normal to feel sad, low or overwhelmed by your circumstances when this happens. You know deep inside that you will eventually bounce back.
However, if this feeling persists to a level where you feel helpless, hopeless or worthless for a period of at least 2 weeks consistently, then you might want to check for clinical symptoms of depression, which is a treatable disorder. It is also common to experience physical symptoms in the form of discomfort and interruption in your day-to-day living in this state of mind.  

What are the symptoms of depression?

Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a term used to describe a mental health disorder wherein you persistently feel decreased ability to function on a day-to-day basis. If you feel you have any of the following symptoms for a minimum period of 2 weeks, you would benefit from professional intervention.

As per the American Psychiatric Association, below are the symptoms of depression ;

1. Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
2. Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
3. Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
4. Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
5. Loss of energy or increased fatigue
6. Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
7. Feeling worthless or guilty
8. Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
9. Thoughts of death or suicide
10. No motivation
11. Uncontrollable crying
 12. Feeling like you’re drowning

There are many ways to approach depression and your healthcare provider will help create the most beneficial treatment plan for you. It is important you rule out allied medical factors (like vitamin deficiency)  before you seek depression counselling. 

Can depression be cured?

Yes, the good news is that depression can be cured! 
It is important you seek professional help to receive a formal diagnosis, medication and in most cases- also start therapy. While taking medication helps in managing the symptoms of depression, talking to a mental health professional will help you get to the root of why it all started and techniques of how to move forward.

You can check out the Wysa therapists if you need professional help. We’re among the best rated mental health app and have professional therapists with over 4.9 ratings.

Can depression have physical symptoms?

Yes, it is common for depression to be accompanied by physical symptoms along with emotional disturbances. This is because the chemicals in your brain ( like serotonin and norepinephrine) that are responsible for managing pain and mood are at play. 

Physical Symptoms of depression may include:

1. Changes in sleep pattern/ sleep disturbances
2. Digestive problems
3. Appetite changes (for example eating more than usual or eating too little)
4. Back pain
5. Joint pain

Approaching your depression holistically will help you manage both physical as well as emotional symptoms of depression.

How long does depression last?

If you are diagnosed with depression by a doctor, chances are, you have already felt like it has come back even though you tried to fight it. Depression can last for weeks, months or even years. It is not uncommon for depression to recur. But don’t be disheartened, this is highly treatable and help for it is available. The major factors that can cause recurrence in depression are lifestyle changes/ struggles and the inability to receive prompt treatment.

You can check out the Wysa therapists if you need professional help. We’re among the best rated mental health app with features that include access to a depression chat with professional therapists with over 4.9 ratings.

How is depression treated?

Each person is different and the method of treatment largely depends on how soon the person has accessed help. Typically, and the most ideal way to treat depression would be to do a combination treatment of medication as well as psychotherapy. But each treatment plan differs from person to person based on their history. In extreme cases, electroconvulsive therapy or hospitalization may be recommended.

Am I depressed or am I just sad?

Everyone feels sad once in a while due to their circumstances and challenges. We all have our own unique way of dealing with sadness and it may share some of the features with depression. But, more often than not, in sadness, you’re able to bounce back and get back to your normal routine. But sadness is different from depression in many ways. 

In depression, you are unable to bounce back and have this continuous feeling of exhaustion, helplessness, self-loathing, and /or suicidal thoughts. These feelings persist for over two weeks of time then it is possible that you have what is called clinical depression or major depressive disorder. You would need to see a doctor get a formal diagnosis.

How can I deal with depression on my own? What are some tips to deal with depression?

Clinical depression does need professional intervention and support since there are psychological, biological as well as social factors involved. Due to the nature of the illness, it can be quite hard to stay self-motivated and take care of yourself. This may delay your treatment which in turn could cause higher chances of recurrence.  

Here are the 5 really helpful self-help tips to deal with depression:

1) Goal setting – setting small and realistic goals or to-do lists for the day can help you feel motivated and accomplished. For example, waking up every day 5 minutes before your regular time could be your goal.

2) Maintaining a routine – Setting a routine will help you feel like you are in control of yourself and the way your day is structured. For example, you can have your morning routine that includes deep breathing exercises, a good shower, and a healthy breakfast.

3) Maintaining a proper diet – never underestimate the power of a good and well-balanced diet. Depression can cause you to eat more than usual or eating too little. Monitoring and keeping an eye on your nutrition helps maintain your internal biological parameters.

4) Sleep hygiene  – depression can cause sleep disturbances such as insomnia or oversleeping. It’s good to set up a fixed time for bed and follow it every day.

5) Taking on more responsibilities- it is quite common to involve yourself in tasks that are larger than yourself or require you to contribute to something meaningful. This will help with your feelings of low self-worth and give you validation for the work you’ve done. For example, you can take up volunteering.

6) Planning the future
Making plans for the future is one of the most constructive things to do! Building yourself up and looking ahead can give you a sense of purpose and positivity. Reading some overcoming depression quotes to feel better.
But the most important of all is to not be trapped in the guilt cycle. Try your best to do all of the above or a combination of the above-mentioned self-help tips. But in the days that you’re not able to fulfill or complete the same, it’s okay. Don’t blame yourself

Can depression cause anxiety?

No, depression doesn’t cause anxiety. But the research goes on to say that depression and anxiety can co-exist. They both share some common symptoms and also have similar lines of treatment. It is possible that your feelings of anxiety are linked to depression and vice- versa but it’s best to get that assessed by a mental health care professional.

Do children get depression?

Yes! Children can have clinical depression too. Just as in the case of adults, it is also normal for children to feel upset if they’re disappointed. But if this feeling of sadness persists and interferes with their daily functioning then it may be a cause for concern. Children show this in the form of irritability, withdrawal, change in eating and sleeping patterns and expressing physical complaints of ill health that don’t respond to treatment. You can read about depression in teens here.

Can crippling depression make you feel suicidal?

Yes, it is very common for depression to be accompanied by feelings of self-harm and suicide. Depression, when chronic and unmanaged, can lead to a lot of despair and feel like ending one’s life seems to be the only way to put a stop to everything.  Those with depression are at a 50% higher chance of feeling suicidal. Should you or a loved one you know feel suicidal, seek help immediately. Here is a helpful resource for immediate help.

What are the causes of depression?

Depression is a complex disease that does not have a definite source for its occurrence. It is usually a combination of your personal circumstances, biological structure and social environment that can cause you to have depression. Here is a list of some factors:

1) Medical Conditions
Being ill and coping with that can really bring someone’s spirits down. In cases such as chronic illnesses, severe life-threatening diseases or psychological illnesses like ADHD- one is likely to feel depressed.

2) Family history
If members of your family have or have had depression, your chances of having depression are also higher since you’re predisposed to it.

3) Childhood trauma
Trauma dictates how you learn to cope with stressful situations, fear, and uncertainties. Having early childhood trauma could affect the way your body responds to such events and cause depression.

4) Drug and substance abuse
People with a history of drug use are more likely to have depression since that interferes with their capacity to deal with and tolerate difficult emotions.

What do I do if my loved one has depression?

It is not easy to see someone struggle. If someone you know has depression, it is important you don’t dismiss or minimize their feelings. Try to be attentive to what they’re saying even if it is hard for you to hear. Let them know you’ve heard them out and tell them that you want to help them more but they would feel much better talking to a professional. You could sit with them and offer to look up resources together as well!  

Dating someone with depression can prove to be an exceptionally challenging task. It can be very frustrating when you’re trying to help someone and they do not follow your advice. It is important that you do not feel tempted to take the burden of care all on yourself and have some support for your own feelings.

Can loneliness cause depression?

Loneliness is a state of mind that is often characterized by a prolonged period of solitude which causes an underlying feeling of emptiness and isolation. It persists in people who may or may not be surrounded by people, i.e., loneliness is akin to feeling alone, sometimes, even when you’re in a crowd.

Loneliness and crippling depression can both seem very isolating, although it’s not necessary that one leads to the other. According to Sheffield Hallam University’s Antonia Ypsilanti and colleagues (2018), people who feel lonely and aloof often are considered to be at a high risk for depression. If you feel lonely or depressed you should consider increasing your social support and spending more time with people who can share your thoughts and alleviate your mental strain.

What stages of depression do people normally experience?

Four distinct stages of depression are commonly diagnosed:

1.  Clinical depression: Clinical depression or major depressive disorder is the most severe stage of depression that afflicts people. It is characterized by an almost constant state of unhappiness and melancholy made worse by an underlying feeling of hopelessness. This form of depression features the longest episodes of low moods and unhappiness that range from a couple of days or weeks to a couple of months or years.
2. Persistent depressive disorder: Compared to major depression, this form of depression is considered less severe but comparatively longer-lasting. In fact, a large number of individuals who experience the persistent depressive disorder have done so from a very young age. Most doctors diagnose this form of depression judging from the duration of low or dull mood in someone’s life. Since this is a long term condition, it can lead to lasting effects on an individual’s overall persona, eating and sleeping patterns and life choices.
3. Psychotic depression
This form of depression involves a mixture of existing long-term or short term mental health disorders. Psychotic depression is a very serious stage of the depression which often requires hospitalization since it includes symptoms of some form of psychosis such as hallucinations or multiple personality disorders. This is a dangerous condition which requires psychotherapy and  medication for treatment. A person suffering from this condition may also exhibit streaks of violence in behaviour.
4. Postpartum depression
The form of depression affects one in eight women in the first month post child birth. Postpartum depression or the ‘baby blues’ is caused by the many physical, emotional and hormonal changes that occur to women after they have a child. Raising a new-born can be an exciting yet challenging time for many first-time moms, giving them a sense of overwhelming responsibility to shoulder all at once. Signs of postpartum depression might emerge as early as during late stage pregnancy and may last till about a year after.
5. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD),
Change in seasons from summer to winter months can trigger the onset of depression. This can be attributed to the lack of sunlight in those months, which tends to uplift the mood for most individuals. Seasonal affective disorder can be treated with a combination of light therapy and antidepressant medication depending on the intensity of the condition.

What is surgery depression?

Surgery depression is a condition that develops in people after they’ve overcome a major disease and/or surgery. There are many physical and emotional roadblocks to recovery post a surgery, which makes people vulnerable to depression, especially if they have suffered from it pre-surgery. In some cases, depression is also a side-effect of heavy medications administered during and after surgery.

Symptoms of surgery depression include:
– Sporadic sleeping or sleeping more than usual
– Mood Swings
– Irrational stress or loss of hope
– Tiredness and lack of energy

Is excessive crying a symptom of depression?

Crying is a perfectly normal emotional response to sadness and despair. Different people are moved to emotion for different reasons which is why there is no ‘standard’ acceptable benchmark for how much crying is normal and what can be considered excessive. Many people experience uncontrollable crying episodes after they watch a sad movie or hear a song that reminds them of a painful experience. However, if you feel like you can’t stop crying too often and your crying spells are coming in the way of your daily activities, there’s a chance you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, although that’s not always the case.

While you can’t stop the tears from falling down but you can try to understand the root of your sorrow better. Instead of asking yourself ‘why do I cry so much?’ or ‘why am I crying for no reason?’, practice some self-compassion. Be kind to yourself; every crying person needs a shoulder to cry on. Speak to a licensed therapist and get to the bottom of the matter.

Is depression a disability?

No. Depression is a mental health condition that can be successfully diagnosed and overcome through counseling and medication. It’s important to normalize depression as a health problem which like many others, happens to a large percentage of the population. With the right care and treatment, depression can be overcome.

Does depression cause a lack of motivation?

Depression is a mental health mood disorder associated with underlying feelings of hopelessness and despair. There are a variety of symptoms that one experiences when they’re depressed ranging from sadness and irritability, lack of appetite, erratic sleep cycles, and loss of motivation and ability to focus. While everyone goes through these phases of lost motivation at some point in their lives or the other, if you feel no motivation to do anything for longer than 2 weeks, you should speak to a licensed therapist and seek a solution.

Why am I feeling sad for no reason?

As human beings, we feel the entire spectrum of emotions at some stage of our life or the other. Feeling sad is a strong human emotion that everyone feels when life is not going exactly as planned. Many times, it’s not clear why we feel sad or morose and we can’t exactly pinpoint the source of this sadness to a person or situation. Understanding the root cause of sadness is important since it’s never without reason. Moreover, it’s a late response to an event or crisis that we haven’t fully acknowledged and accepted ourselves.

Like all emotions, sadness also passes and fades away with time. However, if lingers over a prolonged period of time, you must address it to prevent it from snowballing into a bigger mental health condition.

Is birthday depression real?

A lot of people feel the birthday blues around their special day every year. Birthday depression afflicts people who suffer from social anxiety because they are unable to handle the excessive attention and pressure they receive on the day.

Here are the reasons why some of us have a sad birthday:
– Feeling upset about being a year older
– Feeling let down by loved ones due to high unmet expectations.
– Feeling disappointed with the accomplishments of the year gone by.

What is apathy? Is apathy a symptom of depression?

Apathy is the absence of concern. The definition of the word apathetic signifies a decreased level of consciousness of emotional distress. On the flip side, depression is a mood disorder which involves extreme emotional distress, anxiety, sadness, agitation and feelings of hopelessness. In certain cases of major depression, apathy is found to an early condition of the disorder.

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