What Is Depression?

Some 15 million Americans a year struggle with depression, an illness that comes in many forms—from major depression and seasonal affective disorder, to dysthymia and bipolar disorder. Depression is an illness that increasingly afflicts people worldwide, interfering with concentration, motivation and many other aspects of everyday functioning. It is a complex disorder, involving many systems of the body, including the immune system, either as cause or effect. It disrupts sleep, and it interferes with appetite, in some cases causing weight loss, in others weight gain. Because of its complexity, a full understanding of depression has been elusive.

Scientists have some evidence that the condition is related to diet, both directly—through the nutrients we consume, such as omega-3 fats—and indirectly, through the composition of the bacteria in the gut. Of course, depression involves mood and thoughts as well as the body, and it  causes pain for both those with the disorder and those who care about them. Depression is increasingly common in children.

Everyone experiences an occasional blue mood; depression is a more pervasive experience of repetitive negative rumination, bleak outlook, and lack of energy. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with depression cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. There is some evidence that, painful as depression is, it serves a positive purpose, bringing with it ways of thinking that force people to focus on problems as a prelude to solving them.

Even in the most severe cases, depression is highly treatable. The condition is often cyclical, and early treatment may prevent or forestall recurrent episodes. Many studies show that the most effective treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, which addresses problematic thought patterns, with or without the use of antidepressant drugs. In addition, evidence is quickly accumulating that regular mindfulness meditation, on its own or combined with cognitive therapy, can stop depression before it starts by effectively disengaging attention from the repetitive negative thoughts that often set in motion the downward spiral of mood.

Recent posts on Depression

5 Ways Pole Dancing Can Improve Your Life

By Caitlin Cantor LCSW, CST on September 27, 2016 in Modern Sex
Pole dancing can help you celebrate your body just as you are right now. Give your inner critic a day off!

Recovery Is Not Immune From the Effects of Trauma

My work as a clinical psychologist has led me to understand that trauma may account for the lions’ share of recoverable substance abuse and behavioral health disorders.

Are We Inherently Playful?

By Bernard L. De Koven on September 27, 2016 in On Having Fun
Depression is what happens when we want to play, but can't.

12 Tips to Remedy Seasonal Depression

By Judy Carter on September 26, 2016 in Stress Is a Laughing Matter
As fall comes, so do the fall blues. Maybe that's why they picked September as National Suicide Prevention Month. Here are 12 tips on how to ward off seasonal depression.

Protesting Against Big Pharma Is One Thing

The new drugs, on the whole, have been a blessing, and it is unnerving to see the whole psychopharmacological enterprise now trashed in an indiscriminate manner.

Help Your College Student Combat a Major Danger: Depression

By Marcia Morris M.D. on September 25, 2016 in College Wellness
With the right treatment plan, your child can develop the tools to fight her way out of the darkness of depression and into the light of recovery.
gratisography.com/pexels.com

You Must Use Drugs!

By Matthew J. Edlund M.D. on September 24, 2016 in The Power of Rest
These days, health insurance companies are pushing the use of drugs.

Suicide in Children — What Every Parent Must Know

Only about one-third of children or young adolescents who died from suicide told anyone that they intended to kill themselves. Do you know the risk factors?

Darkness in the Morning, Depression in the Afternoon

It is a warmer than usual autumn, but nevertheless the diminished light of winter will soon arrive. Here are some ideas to stay ahead of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"Daddy, Can I Die and Make the Pain Stop?"

By Kevin D. Arnold Ph.D., ABPP on September 22, 2016 in The Older Dad
Some young children think about suicide, but adults often never hear the cry for help.

Why Doctors See Antidepressant Effects That Researchers Miss

By Peter D Kramer on September 22, 2016 in In Practice
Trust drug trials and mistrust clinical observation? Sometimes doctors know best—while researchers are blind to factors that help depressed patients recover.

Can a Dog Really Suffer From Depression?

By Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. on September 21, 2016 in Canine Corner
One of the breakthroughs in veterinary medicine has been the recognition that dogs and humans may have similar psychological problems and can be treated the same way.
Public Domain, PIxabay

Infertility and Miscarriage: Emerging From the Shadows

By Monica N. Starkman M.D. on September 21, 2016 in On Call
Open, compassionate discussion of reproductive failure is necessary in order to combat the social stigma that surrounds it.

When Social Media Sparks Depression

By Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. on September 21, 2016 in Media Spotlight
A new study highlights the psychological risks associated with the online harassment that can often occur on social medial sites such as Facebook.
mipan at bigstock.com

Overcoming Excuses for Not Taking Care of Your Brain

By Susan Noonan MD on September 20, 2016 in View From the Mist
Sometimes it’s easier to believe the faulty logic of these thoughts – don’t!

Why You Can’t Walk Away From Him

By Linda Esposito LCSW on September 19, 2016 in From Anxiety to Zen
Do you control, nurture, and protect your partner? Maybe it's time to let go.

Diversity and Inclusiveness Is Good For Your Well-being

Being intolerant of people who are different to you may be bad for your well-being; results for 8 different aspects of well-being.
ID 56063305 © Sergey Khakimullin | Dreamstime.com

Here’s Why Your Brain Makes Quitting Drugs/Alcohol So Hard

By Richard Taite on September 16, 2016 in Ending Addiction for Good
There’s little more tempting than a quick and easy solution to our problems.

5 Things We Can All Do to Help Stop Suicide

By Lisa Firestone Ph.D. on September 15, 2016 in Compassion Matters
The suicidal state is almost always transient and temporary. If we intervene and get people the help they need, we can help save lives. To do this, we must educate ourselves.

When Does the Bullying Stop?

By Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. on September 15, 2016 in Media Spotlight
What are the long-term consequences of being bullied as a child? being a victim can be more far-reaching than you might think.

Fascinating Evidence Shows How Melatonin Can Help With GERD

By Lucy O'Donnell on September 15, 2016 in Cancer Is a Teacher
Are you suffering from a multitude of gastrointestinal problems. Look at the findings that suggest melatonin, aside from its other benefits, may greatly help.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

By Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D. on September 15, 2016 in Brain and Behavior
There are many misconceptions about bipolar disorder, a lifelong disorder characterized by episodes of often persistent, highs, and often persistent, lows.

Why Is It So Hard to Lose Weight After Antidepressants?

You needed the help of medication. You gained weight. You don't need the medication anymore, so why are you still chubby?
pexels

Perinatal Psychiatry, Birth Trauma & Perinatal PTSD, Part 3

By Shaili Jain M.D. on September 14, 2016 in The Aftermath of Trauma
I recently spoke with Dr. Rebecca Moore to understand more about Birth Trauma and PTSD.

Can Confiding in Your Dog Improve Your Mental Health?

By Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. on September 14, 2016 in Canine Corner
New data shows that people confide in their dog during times of adversity, but only about certain specific emotions

Shift the Sadness of Losing Summer

Our brain brain is good at scanning for negatives, but you can wire yourself to focus on positives.

How the Immune System Influences Suicidality

Many biological and environmental factors contribute to suicidal behaviors. Factors that stimulate the brain’s immune responses may increase the risk of suicide.

Therapy Without a Therapist?

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on September 13, 2016 in Think, Act, Be
Learning and practicing new skills is at the heart of CBT—whether you're working with a therapist or on your own.

The Pleasures and Perils of Writing a Revealing Memoir

By Susan K Perry Ph.D. on September 12, 2016 in Creating in Flow
A memoir can be written by anyone, yet the best ones are authored by those who have learned to dig deep and write what others might fear to.

Three Core Tenets at the Heart of Suicide Prevention

By Christopher Bergland on September 11, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
National Suicide Prevention Week is September 5-11, 2016. The International Association for Suicide Prevention has pinpointed three core tenets at the heart of suicide prevention.