Many of you might have heard others use this term ‘depression’ very loosely. You yourself might have used the word to describe a way you were feeling at that point of time. But what is depression? Feeling blue? Down? Low? Is depression just feeling sad? Does not getting your coffee first thing in the morning mean you’re depressed?
First thing’s first. Depression is NOT the same as sadness. Does sadness come under depression? Yes it does! But that does not define depression in absolute terms. Feeling sad and low is a very natural and healthy part of our lives. It shows that we have the capability to respond and feel sad in response to a negative life event. It shows that we feel all sorts of emotions, from the rosy rainbow ones to the cloudy dark ones.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)/ Clinical Depression
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), also known as Clinical Depression or Major Depression, is a common and serious psychological disorder that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder, and a person who experiences intense and chronic periods of sadness and lethargy, along with other symptoms, could be showing signs of MDD.
Major Depressive Disorder is a serious medical condition which affects not only the mental and emotional health of the person, but also the physical health and their behaviour, such as appetite, sleep cycle, motivation etc. (Simons et al., 2016) (Thase, 2006).
Major Symptoms of Clinical Depression
Psychologists around the world follow the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose mental disorders and other illnesses in patients. The current version in use is DSM-5 i.e., the fifth version of the DSM.
To be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder according to the DSM-5 criteria, a person needs to have at least 5 of the following symptoms, and these have to be present during the same 2-week period (and at least 1 of the symptoms must be diminished interest/pleasure or depressed mood) :
- Depressed mood: For children and adolescents, this can also be an irritable mood
- Diminished interest or loss of pleasure in almost all activities (anhedonia)
- Significant weight change or appetite disturbance: For children, this can be failure to achieve expected weight gain
- Sleep disturbance (insomnia or hypersomnia)
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate; indecisiveness
- Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide
I think I Have a Few Symptoms, Am I Depressed!?
No. You cannot diagnose yourself with any mental disorder. Even if you think you have one or any of the symptoms mentioned hitherto it does not mean you’re depressed. You may feel sad or low at a particular point of time, or even for a whole day. But that does not mean that you are depressed, it simply means you are feeling emotions of sadness and gloom, which is completely normal and natural.
However, if you think you have been feeling this way for a long time now, and that it is interfering with your normal functioning, and you want to change that, it would be beneficial to seek professional mental help from a therapist. A trained and licensed practitioner will be able to guide you and help you handle your problems independently and successfully.
Halverson, J. L., Moraille-Bhalla, P., Andrew, L. B., & Leonard, R. C. (2019, November 27). What are the DSM-5 criteria for diagnosis of major depressive disorder (clinical depression)? Latest Medical News, Clinical Trials, Guidelines – Today on Medscape. Retrieved October 10, 2021, from https://www.medscape.com/answers/286759-14692/what-are-the-dsm-5-criteria-for-diagnosis-of-major-depressive-disorder-clinical-depression.
Simmons, W. K., Burrows, K., Avery, J. A., Kerr, K. L., Bodurka, J., Savage, C. R., & Drevets, W. C. (2016, April 1). Depression-related increases and decreases in appetite: Dissociable patterns of aberrant activity in reward and interoceptive neurocircuitry. The American journal of psychiatry. Retrieved October 10, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818200/#__ffn_sectitle.
Thase M. E. (2006). Depression and sleep: pathophysiology and treatment. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 8(2), 217–226. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2006.8.2/mthase