Depression: What, How and Why

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

Depression is a medical condition that affects your mood and ability to function. Most people think it just feeling sad and associate it with the Monday blues, but depression is very real and usually not very short-lived. Its types include clinical depression, bipolar depression, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder, and others. Some of the treatment options range from counselling to medications, to brain stimulation as well as complementary therapies.

What is depression really?

Depression is a medical condition that affects your mood and ability to function. Its associated symptoms include feeling sad, anxious, or hopeless, at first. The condition can also cause difficulty with thinking, memory, eating, and sleeping. A diagnosis of major depressive disorder, namely clinical depression, means you have felt sad, low, or worthless on most days, for at least two weeks at a stretch, while also having other symptoms such as sleep problems, loss of interest in activities, or change in appetite.

Without treatment, depression can get worse and last longer. In severe cases, it can lead to self-harm or death. Fortunately, treatments can be very effective in improving symptoms of depression.

What are the types of depression?

While there is no evident or definitive cause as to why this happens, some symptoms of depression simply linger for much longer in select people, than in some others for no apparent reason.

Types of depression are listed as follows:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD): Major depression (clinical depression) has intense or overwhelming symptoms that last longer than two weeks. These symptoms interfere with everyday life.
  • Bipolar depression: People with bipolar disorder have alternating periods of low mood and extremely high-energy (manic) periods. During the low period, they may have depression symptoms such as feeling sad or hopeless, or lacking energy.
  • Perinatal and postpartum depression: “Perinatal” means around birth. Many people refer to this type as postpartum depression. Perinatal depression can occur during pregnancy and up to one year after having a baby. Symptoms go beyond “the baby blues,” which leads to minor sadness, worry, or stress.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (PDD): Also known as dysthymia, symptoms of PDD are less severe than major depression. But people experience PDD symptoms for two years or longer.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a severe form of premenstrual disorder (PMS). It affects women in the days or weeks leading up to their menstrual period.
  • Psychotic depression: People with psychotic depression have severe depressive symptoms and delusions or hallucinations. Delusions are beliefs in things that are not based in reality, while hallucinations involve seeing, hearing, or feeling touched by things that aren’t actually there.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder, usually starts in late fall and early winter. It often goes away during the spring and summer.


What causes depression?

Various factors can cause or play a role in leading to depression:

  • Brain chemistry or abnormalities in brain chemical levels
  • Genetics or family history
  • Certain life events like stress, death of a loved one, upsetting events, trauma, isolation or lack of support
  • Medical conditions, physical pain and illnesses
  • Certain medications, rather their side effects
  • Recreational drugs or alcohol
  • Personality or the trait of being easily overwhelmed

What are the symptoms of depression?

Depression can affect your emotions, mind, and body. Its symptoms include:

  • Feeling very sad, hopeless, or worried
  • Not enjoying things that used to give you joy
  • Being easily irritated or frustrated
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Changes in how much you sleep
  • Having a difficult time concentrating or remembering things
  • Experiencing physical problems like headache, stomach-ache or sexual dysfunction
  • Thinking about hurting or killing yourself


Everyone may feel sad or down from time to time. However, clinical depression has more intense symptoms that last two weeks or longer.

In order to determine whether you have clinical depression, your healthcare provider will ask you certain questions. You could be asked to complete a questionnaire and provide details of your family history. Your healthcare provider may also perform an exam or some lab tests to see if you have any other medical condition(s).


Depression might be serious, but it’s also treatable. Some of the treatment options for depression include:

  • Self-help: Regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and spending time with people you care about can improve depression symptoms.
  • Counselling: Counselling or psychotherapy is talking with a mental health professional. Your counsellor helps you address your problems and develop coping skills. Sometimes brief therapy is all you need.
  • Alternative medicine: People with mild depression or ongoing symptoms can improve their well-being with complementary therapy, such as massages, acupuncture, hypnosis, and biofeedback.
  • Medication: Prescription medicine called antidepressants can help change the brain chemistry that causes depression. Antidepressants can take a few weeks to have an effect. Some antidepressants have side effects, which often improve with time. If they don’t, talk to your therapist about it. A different medication may work better for you.
  • Brain stimulation therapy: Brain stimulation therapy can help people who have severe depression or depression with psychosis. Types of brain stimulation therapy can include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).


You can help prevent depression by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and practising regular self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and yoga.

If you’ve had depression before, you may be more likely to experience it again. If you have any of the listed symptoms of depression, you should seek help. Professional care can help you to feel better sooner.


Depression can be mild or severe, or brief or long-lasting. Either way, it’s important to get help right away. Without treatment, depression could get worse, increase your chance of other health conditions like dementia, could lead to self-harm or even death. In fact, it is important to remember that it can also return or relapse, even after you have started feeling better.

To summarise, depression is a common condition that affects millions of people every year. Anyone can experience depression — even if there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it. Causes of depression may include difficulties in life, brain chemistry abnormalities, certain medications, and physical conditions, but the good news is that depression is treatable. If you have symptoms of depression, call us and we’ll be happy to help. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will feel better.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *