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What is Depression?

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It results in feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function in different aspects of your life.

Depressive symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness or guilt
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of self-harm, death or suicide
  • Acts of self-harm or attempted suicide

Symptoms must last at least two weeks and must represent a change in your previous level of functioning for a diagnosis of depression.

It is important to note that being sad, or feeling ‘depressed’, or grief, is not the same as having depression, even as the two experiences share some features. They may sometimes co-exist, and when this happens, the feeling of grief seems more severe.

Depression can affect anyone, regardless of their circumstances, and its prevalence is often tied to certain general physical conditions, such as cancer, PCOD, chronic pain conditions, among others. 

Considering that a single diagnosis of depression (or related diagnoses) can present differently across individuals, ages, genders, populations, etc., it is suggested that professional support be sought for assessment and management of the symptoms as and when they show up.

Treatment options for depression:

Depression is considered to be among the most treatable of mental disorders. Taking therapy and medications for the specific presenting symptoms (usually, a combination of the two) are known to be two of the most effective methods of treatment for any mental illness or concern. 

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