What Is Depression?

Depression has a variety of symptoms, such as loss of energy, loss of interest in activities and in life, sadness, loss of appetite and weight, difficulty concentrating, self-criticism, feelings of hopelessness, physical complaints, withdrawal from other people, irritability, difficulty making decisions, and suicidal thinking. Many depressed people feel anxious as well. They often feel worried, nauseated, or dizzy, and sometimes have hot and cold flashes, blurred vision, racing heartbeat, and sweating.

Clinical depression varies from mild to severe. For example, some people complain of a few symptoms that occur some of the time. Other people, suffering from severe depression, may complain of a large number of symptoms that are frequent, 10ng-Iasting, and quite disturbing.

Clinical depression is not the same as grieving after the loss of a loved one through death, separation, or divorce. Feelings of sadness, emptiness, low energy, and lack of interest are normal during grief; anger and anxiety can also be part of the normal grief process. Clinical depression differs from normal grief, however, in that clinical depression sometimes may occur without a significant loss. In addition, depression may last longer than grief and includes feelings of self-criticism, hopelessness, and despair. It would be an unusual person who said that he or she never felt “depressed.” Mood fluctuations are normal and help inform us that something is missing in our lives and that we should consider changing things. But clinical depression is worse than simple fluctuations in mood. Because there are various degrees of depression, the severely depressed patient may wish to consider a number of treatments in combination.