What is depression?

Everyone has feelings of sadness now and again. It’s a normal part of life, and just because we get sad doesn’t mean we’re depressed.

But when those feelings of sadness persist, when hopelessness seems to take a hold of you and doesn’t want to let go or go away, it’s possible you may have depression.

When a person feels sadness or despair for an extended period of time (at least two weeks or more), either in response to life events, disappointments, setbacks or problems, or for seemingly no reason at all, that could be depression – and depression can make you think differently, feel differently, and function differently.

Your daily activities may be affected. You may not be able to concentrate in school or at work. You may not have an appetite, or you may be overeating. You may lay in bed at night awake, staring at the ceiling or fighting to get some shut-eye. You may even oversleep, wanting to “sleep away” your worries.

All of this can be overwhelming.

When a person has depression, they may feel alone. They may feel hopeless, or lifeless, or as some describe it, “empty.” They may feel numb. Others may feel angry or frustrated.

Depression looks different for everybody, so it’s important that you don’t compare yourself to full lists of symptoms or other people. You can experience depression in a way you’ve never heard it described before. It doesn’t make your depression “better” or “worse” than anyone else’s. But remember this: it doesn’t matter how hopeless it seems, or if other people seem to be suffering more than you are. Your feelings are valid, and you can and will get better, with the right support and by understanding your symptoms and their causes.

So let’s take a minute to list the most common signs and symptoms of depression. Remember that you can feel any of these symptoms without having depression – sad feelings and loss of interest can be a normal part of life. But when your symptoms are increasing in severity and duration, and when it feels like they’re getting in the way of you living a healthy life, it might be time to see someone for a diagnosis and treatment.
Common symptoms of depression
Loss of interest in what you once loved to do, or in daily activities.
Feeling helpless or hopeless
Major changes in appetite or weight
Insomnia or oversleeping
Being more irritable than usual, or angrier than usual
Loss of energy
Recklessness and participating in dangerous behaviors
Self-loathing or feeling worthless
Trouble remembering things
Trouble concentrating on things
Physical pains, like stomach aches or headaches

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