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What is depression?

Depression is a very overused word in society. “I’m so depressed” and ” This is so depressing” are commonly used phrases. True depression in the clinical sense is more complicated than this.

Sadness is a common human emotion, and it is commonly brought about by loss. Loss of spouse, child, business, home can all cause you to feel sad. Sadness is a normal human emotion which is felt acutely and then slowly resolves.

So, when does sadness become depression?

I’m often faced with this question, and have to tease out exactly what is going on. Depression is an intense chronic feeling that doesn’t fade easily and may worsen instead of getting better. The table below lists the symptoms of depression which we look for.

dsm5 depression sym pts

Symptoms have to interfere significantly with your functioning and last for 2 or more weeks to be considered a ‘depressive episode’.

The tricky thing about depression is, especially for the first episode, most people won’t realize that they are depressed. People around them often notice some changes in behavior,habits and socializing prior to the patient realizing what is going on.

Most patients I’ve seen in a depressive episode, report sleep disturbances, concentration and memory issues and a decreased interest in things they normally would do (e.g. exercising, socializing, etc). Other symptoms of depression include a decreased sex drive, feeling miserable and irritable and grumpy.

Here is a brief depression screening tool found at Psych central. If you score highly on this, please seek professional help.

My next post on this topic is:

I think I am depressed, what can I do to get better?

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