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What is Depression?

Depression is characterized by persistent sadness for at least two weeks or longer. In addition, physical symptoms, may present without feelings of sadness. Depression may be due to life events such as trauma, loss, abuse, or chronic stress, in addition to brain biology and chemistry.


-Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

-Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism

-Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness

-Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

-Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”

-Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

-Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

-Appetite and/or weight changes

-Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts

-Restlessness, irritability

-Persistent physical symptoms


Major depression:

Severe symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes.

Persistent depressive disorder:

A depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years.

Psychotic depression:

When a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD):

Which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.

Bipolar disorder is different from depression.

The reason it is included in this list is because someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extreme low moods (depression). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high moods (called “mania”).


Depression is a treatable condition by multiple types of treatment. These may include therapy, antidepressant drugs, or both.

Where To Begin

Making an appointment with a mental health provider
Talking to your Doctor
Support Groups

All information taken from:

NIMH - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). Depression (NIH Publication No. 15-3561). Bethesda, MD: U.S. Government Printing Office.