Understanding Depression: The Basics

by Rachel Lysak | March 2024

Depression is often mistaken for mere sadness or a stuck mood that one can simply “snap out of” by attempting to redirect their thoughts. However, depression is a complex mental health condition that goes far beyond the occasional sad mood. It is a persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in once-enjoyable activities. Clients often describe that life “has no color.” Unlike the normal and healthy emotional experiences of sadness, grief, or even anxiety, depression makes normal life function a tedious and painful chore and often doesn’t have a clear cause the way that normal sadness and grief do.

The symptoms of depression can vary widely but commonly include a deep feeling of sadness or a marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities. Other symptoms can range from changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, and persistent fatigue, to feelings of worthlessness, difficulty thinking or concentrating, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. Depression is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Life events, such as trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation, may trigger a depressive episode. Other times, depression may develop without any apparent cause.

Treatment often involves psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Lifestyle choices have an enormous impact on the development and alleviation of depression symptoms. Regular exercise, a healthy varied diet, and contact with healthy relationships are game changers when it comes to battling depression. However, the very things that combat depression are rendered very difficult to do by the nature of the disorder. Depression can be a difficult puzzle to solve. The longer it goes untreated the more entrenched it can become.

Depression is more than just a bad day; it is a real, mental health condition that requires understanding and compassion. By recognizing its complexity and advocating for proper care, we can help those affected find their way back to light and hope. If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, compassionate help is not far away.