Depression, or unipolar depression, is a problem characterized by an extremely sad mood that lasts for a long period of time and a lack of interest or pleasure in doing things that usually makes a person happy.


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Someone with depression also has problems sleeping (either sleeping too much or too little); trouble thinking and concentrating; low levels of energy; unexpected changes in weight (either gaining or losing weight); and feelings of nervousness or agitation. With severe depression, there can also be recurrent thoughts about dying or actual suicide attempts.

If people experience these symptoms for at least two weeks, they might be diagnosed as having a major depressive episode. When left untreated, some major depressive episodes last as long as nine months, on average. After a depressive episode ends, the person might return to feeling normal. However, after experiencing the first major depressive episode, the odds of experiencing a second one increase by 50 percent, and with each new episode the odds only get worse that depressive episodes will keep coming. This is why getting treatment for depression is so important, even if the person’s most recent depressive episode has ended.

It’s important to remember that depression is not a sign of weakness or an inability to cope with normal problems. Most people with depression can’t effectively treat the problem by themselves; they have a very pessimistic view about themselves, the world, and life in general. People with depression think of themselves as incapable of handling their problems, which is both a result of the disorder and perhaps part of its cause. Regardless, depression is a very serious problem that can affect anyone.

When people are suffering with depression, there are probably many days when they don’t feel like getting out of bed. Either they feel too tired or maybe they think, “Why bother?” since life in general feels hopeless or pointless. Throughout the day, people with depression feel sad, blue, sluggish, unmotivated, and empty inside, like there’s a part of themselves that’s missing. They might even experience headaches or body aches for which there are no apparent causes, feel restless and agitated, and find it difficult to concentrate.

In most cases of depression, the person no longer has an interest in pleasurable activities, like hobbies, exercising, socializing, or even sex. Instead, the person might be preoccupied with thoughts about death and dying. It’s common for people with depression to think about ways to kill themselves. Some of them might even try to commit suicide. Others who are no longer concerned if they live or die might frequently take dangerous risks, like driving too fast or walking in traffic.

Depression can also cause many problems in people’s relationships, especially marriages and partnerships. Often, people who are depressed have problematic beliefs about their relationships. They may believe that they shouldn’t disagree with their partner, which puts added stress on both people. Others who are depressed seek constant reassurance from their friends and loved ones, which strains those relationships. People with depression will do this to determine if they’re doing the “right” thing or to find out if they’re still loved.

Unfortunately, no amount of reassurance from the nondepressed partner or friend ever seems to be enough. And in some cases, the constant reassurance seeking can lead to the nondepressed partner or friend also becoming depressed.

Another type of depression is dysthymia, a type of depression that’s longer-lasting and seems to stay with the person for his or her entire life. In some ways, dysthymia might not be as severe or disabling as a major depressive episode, because often the person can still function in everyday life. People with dysthymia also might not have as many problems with sleeping, thinking, or weight changes.

But because dysthymia is so constant and long lasting, it becomes a part of a person’s personality. A person with dysthymia might look generally unhappy or sad all of the time, and his or her mood might never return to a balanced, healthy state. A person with dysthymia might also experience depressive episodes at times, a condition known as double depression.

Officially, depression and dysthymia, along with the bipolar disorders, are collectively referred to as mood disorders.


This website is for informational purposes only and does not provide an official diagnosis. Anyone struggling with a physical or mental health problem should seek the services of a medical or psychological professional as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you’re having thoughts about suicide or hurting someone else, please see our crisis resources list, contact your local emergency services, or go to a local hospital immediately.