Depression is much more than simple unhappiness. Clinical depression, sometimes called major depression, is a complex mood disorder caused by various factors, including genetic predisposition, personality, stress and brain chemistry. While it can suddenly go into remission, depression is not something that people can “get over” by their own effort.
The main symptom of depression is a sad, despairing mood that is present for most days and lasts for most of the day. These feelings last for more than two weeks, and it impairs the person’s performance at work, at school or in social relationships. Other symptoms of depression include changes in appetite and weight, sleep problem, loss of interest in work, hobbies, people or sex.
People experiencing depression can also find themselves withdrawing from family members and friends, feeling useless, hopeless, excessively guilty, pessimistic or have low self-esteem. they present with a sense of agitation or feeling slowed down and irritable, they suffer from fatigue and have trouble concentrating, remembering and making decisions.
Depression can also cause people to find themselves in periods of crying easily or feeling like crying without being able to. In extremes they can have excessive thoughts of suicide, which should always be taken seriously, and can sometimes have a loss of touch with reality, hearing voices (hallucinations) or having strange ideas (delusions).
Depression is usually more common in women, though the sex difference diminishes with age in Canada. Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression in women, particularly during times such as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy and postpartum, miscarriage, pre-menopause and menopause.
Men with depression typically have a higher rate of feeling irritable, angry and discouraged. This can make it harder to recognize depression in men. The rate of completed suicide in men is four times that in women, although more women attempt suicide. Some people have the mistaken idea that it is normal for older adults to feel depressed. Older adults often don't want to talk about feeling hopeless or sad or about losing interest in normally pleasurable activities or experiencing prolonged grief after a loss.
A child who is depressed may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent or worry that the parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative or grouchy and feel misunderstood. Because normal behaviours vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is going through a temporary “phase” or has depression.Genetic or family history of depression, psychological or emotional vulnerability to depression, biological factors such as imbalances in brain chemistry and in the endocrine/immune systems, or a major stress in the person's life may play a part in the onset of depression.