What is depression?

If a doctor or medical professional believes you may be depressed, what does that really mean? The trouble with depression is its not a rash – its hard to “see” – although in research, brain studies can show how the brain can look different in someone who is depressed – so then how does a doctor know that’s what’s wrong?

It comes down to symptoms – these are complaints you have or someone else may notice about you – that tend to go together in someone who is depressed. They include:

  • Feeling down most of the day. Maybe you notice you are just feeling sad, empty, or down in the dumps. You might feel so not yourself that its your friend or family member who notices you are tearful or even irritable.
  • Not interested in things you used to like. Things you used to think were fun aren’t fun anymore. You don’t really do them and even if you don’t notice, other people might.
  • Changes in your appetite or weight. You’re hungry all the time or you don’t feel like anything tastes good anymore.
  • Problems with sleep. You are tired and sleepy all day even when you get enough rest, or the opposite – you can’t fall asleep no matter how hard you try.
  • Tiredness or not having energy. 
  • You feel like everything is your fault. Even things you know probably are not. Or you feel like you’re no good at anything at all.
  • You have a tough time concentrating or making decisions.
  • You may have thoughts of suicide.

MOST important is that because of these symptoms, you are having trouble living the life you want to live. 

It might mean you are not achieving your goals, getting to school every day, getting to work, doing the fun activities you used to do, or being the friend or partner you want to be.

A health professional can help you figure out if you should get treatment for depression or if something else could be causing some of your symptoms. For example, having a low blood count can cause sleepiness, fatigue, and a tough time concentrating. Sometimes it can take many visits for you and your health professional to figure out the best way to help you.

The most important thing is if someone else notices or you notice these symptoms in yourself, usually they won’t just go away on their own. Talking to a trusted health professional will be your next best step.

Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: https://sova.pitt.edu/i-need-help-now We look forward to talking to you!

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