Depression is a commonly misunderstood general term that covers a variety of mental health disorders associated with feelings of sadness, misery, and despair.
While everyone experiences less-than-upbeat emotions from time to time, only those who meet certain emotional and behavioral criteria will be diagnosed with depression. It is also important to remember that there is a distinct difference between sadness and depression: Sadness is a natural, healthy, and temporary response to certain experiences or situations; depression, on the other hand, is a potentially devastating medical condition that requires effective professional intervention.
The general category of depression is usually subdivided into three categories:
The difference between these three types of depression is primarily in the duration and severity of the symptoms that the depressed individual experiences.
Common symptoms of depression include:
Depression is also often associated with co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse, addiction, anxiety, and panic. For many depressed individuals, the abuse of alcohol or other drugs began as a means of “self-medicating” their more disruptive symptoms. Unsurprisingly, though, this substance abuse actually often ends up exacerbating the symptoms of depression, which can then lead the depressed individual into an ever-worsening cycle of drug abuse and despair.
The good news about depression (and yes, there is good news about depression) is that several forms of depression treatment have proved effective. Medications for depression, therapies, and combinations thereof have allowed millions of previously depressed individuals to rise above their disorder, regain control over their lives, and resume their pursuit of a happier and healthier future.