I have been researching this topic and looking for an answer to this question for quite sometime now. But before we get into it, let me make it clear as to what depression is not. We have a major semantic issue here. Depression or medically termed as Major Depressive Disorder, is not simply feeling the emotion of sadness or feeling depressed. It is far from it. Since the word depression is synonymous with sadness, the general public tends to assume that the Major Depressive Disorder is an illness where the patient feels sad all the time. No wonder there is a stigma attached with the illness. The general public needs to be educated on this subject if we are to beat Depression as a society.
So coming back to the question of what is Depression? Medically, Depression presents itself with a host of different symptoms. Low mood and perpetual sadness is only one of many symptoms. Patients suffering from Depression have a combination of the following symptoms.
1) Physiological Symptoms: generalized anxiety, chronic pain, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or both, poor posture with stooped shoulders, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
2) Psychological Symptoms: excessive worry and rumination, irritability, low mood, numb emotions, psychosis, lack of pleasure, and suicidal thoughts.
3) Cognitive Symptoms: lack of attention, difficulty focusing and concentrating, poor memory, generally negative outlook of the world, and delusions.
This is not a complete list by any means and one doesn’t need to have all of these symptoms to be diagnosed with Depression. Generally, if you have had most of these symptoms persistently for over two weeks, then you may have some varying degree of Major Depressive Disorder. Or at least that is how physicians diagnose patients at this time. If you’re interested in learning more about diagnosis then google DSM-4 and read up on it.
More on the causes of depression in the next post.