Feeling down from time to time is a natural part of life, but when emotions such as hopelessness and despair take hold and just won’t go away, we may have depression. Depression is more than just sadness in response to life’s struggles and setbacks; it changes how we think, feel, and function in daily activities. It can interfere with our ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life. Trying to get through the day can be overwhelming. 
Depression is relatively common. In fact, depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States among people ages 15 – 44 (NIMH). There is a range of symptoms from feelings of anger to apathy or emptiness and hopelessness. Left untreated, depression can become a serious health condition. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are symptoms of depression and part of our perception, not the reality of our situation.
Depression is not just a feeling of sadness that can diminish over time, but a condition that can endure for weeks, months, or even years.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Unusually sad mood
  • Lack of energy and tiredness or restlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Feelings of guilt (harsh criticism for perceived faults or mistakes)
  • Difficulty with focus or making decisions
  • Moving slower than usual or becoming unable to settle down well
  • Low distress tolerance (having irritability or feeling agitation or anger)
  • Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
  • Changes in appetite or weight (either too much or too little)
  • Suicidal ideation (having thoughts of death often)

Research suggests there is a biological link between anxiety and depression. Depression and anxiety disorders are different, but people with depression often experience symptoms similar to those of an anxiety disorder, such as nervousness, irritability, and problems sleeping and concentrating. But each disorder has its own causes and its own emotional and behavioral symptoms.
Many people who develop depression have a history of an anxiety disorder earlier in life. There is no evidence one disorder causes the other, but there is clear evidence that many people suffer from both disorders.
Symptoms represent a significant change from previous functioning. Social, occupational, educational, or other important functioning is also impacted. For instance, we might start missing work or school, or stop going to classes or other usual social activities. Risk factors for depression include:

 Loneliness and isolation
 Marital or relationship problems
 Recent stressful life experiences 
 Chronic illness or pain
 Family history of depression
 Early childhood trauma and abuse
 Alcohol or drug abuse


Depression often varies according to age and gender, with symptoms differing between men and women, or young people and older adults. There are different types of depression and, while defining the severity can be complicated, knowing what type of depression we might have can help us better manage the symptoms to get the most effective treatment possible.

We can learn to cope with depression. I encourage clients to reach out to friends and loved ones, even if we feel like a burden to others of feel alone because isolation fuels depression. The simple act of talking to someone about our feelings can be an immense help. Effective treatment for depression means talking to a therapist. Therapists will listen in a neutral, objective, non-judgmental way and help provide skills to help reframe some of the perceptions that might lead us to feeling down. Through the therapeutic relationship, we can gain trust and insight to battle what comes next and feel more confident to cope with, and change, the past messages we have told ourselves that keep us feeling stuck.