what is depression

What is Depression?

It’s normal to feel down once in a while. But if you’re sad most of the time and it affects your daily life, you may have clinical depression. This serious mood disorder causes severe symptoms. These symptoms affect how you feel, think, and manage your daily life. Depression also causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. The word depression is actually just an umbrella term for a number of different types, from major to atypical to dysthymia.

Depression can cause a variety of emotional and physical changes. This includes weight gain or weight loss, insomnia, and chronic pain. And with it, you may have problems engaging in normal daily activities, lose interest in sex and other activities, and bear deep feelings of guilt and hopelessness. Depression ranges in seriousness. You may suffer from a mild condition and temporary episodes of sadness. Or yours may be more severe – a persistent rainstorm that seems as if it will never end.

What is Depression? Symptoms

There are a lot of symptoms and signs of depression. But you may not have them all. How intense they are, and how long they last, are different from person to person. The most common symptoms are through emotions. You may feel sad, empty, or anxious. Or perhaps have a sense of helplessness, worthlessness, or guilt. You may feel hopeless and more irritable than normal.

You may also be suffering from more physical symptoms. Perhaps you have less interest in the activities and passions that used to inspire you. You may feel less energetic or have trouble concentrating. Maybe you’ve noticed differences in your sleeping schedule – or notice you can barely sleep at all anymore. The same goes for eating. A once healthy appetite may now be on more extreme ends of the scale.


While scientists are still researching this mental illness, experts believe depression is due to a number of things:

Brain Structure: Scans show that the parts of your brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior look different when you’re depressed. But scientists aren’t sure why just yet.

Genes: Scientists are studying certain genes that may make you more likely to suffer from depression. But even if you have them, you may not get depressed. Depression can also happen in some people, even when they don’t have that genetic makeup.

Life Events: Something disturbing that happens to you may trigger depression. It may be the loss of someone close to you, a difficult relationship, or a stressful situation. However, there doesn’t have to be a “reason” for your depression. Sometimes it happens without an obvious cause.

Other Conditions: Drug or alcohol abuse, illness, long-term pain, anxiety, sleep problems, and ADHD may also be linked to depression.


Depression isn’t a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. This condition has many different variables.


This is the most common type of depression. About 7% of the adult population suffer from this condition at any given time. It includes all of the symptoms mentioned above. For an official diagnosis, your symptoms must last for more than two weeks.


About 2 percent of the American population have a depression type that’s less severe than major depression. But Dysthymia is still very real. Dysthymia is a type of depression that causes a low mood over a long period of time. Symptoms include sadness, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and changes in sleep habits and appetite. Those with dysthymia may also be at risk for episodes of major or clinical depression.


A whopping 85 percent of new moms feel some sadness the birth of their baby. Yet, for up to 16% of women, that sadness is serious enough to be diagnosable as a type of depression. It is characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, fatigue, loneliness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, fears about hurting the baby, and feelings of disconnect from the child. This depression type can occur anywhere from weeks to months after childbirth and requires prompt medical care.

Seasonal Affective Disorder:

Would you prefer to hibernate during the winter than face those cold, dreary days? Do you tend to gain weight, feel blue, and withdraw socially during the season? You could be one of 4 to 6 percent of people in the United States estimated to have the depression type, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Though many people find themselves in winter funks, SAD is characterized by symptoms of anxiety, increased irritability, daytime fatigue, and weight gain. This type of depression typically occurs in winter climates, likely due to the lack of natural sunlight.


Despite its name, atypical depression is not unusual. In fact, it may be one of the most common types of depression. And some doctors even believe it is underdiagnosed. Unlike major depression, a common sign of atypical depression is a sense of heaviness in the arms and legs. Almost like a form of paralysis. However, a study found that oversleeping and overeating are the two most important symptoms for diagnosing atypical depression.


Psychosis is defined as a mental state characterized by disorganized thinking or behavior. It is also characterized by false beliefs and hallucinations. Yet psychosis doesn’t typically get associated with depression. But according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 20 percent of people with depression have episodes so severe that they develop psychotic symptoms.


If your periods of extreme lows are followed by periods of extreme highs, you could have bipolar disorder (a type of depression previously called manic-depressive disorder because symptoms can alternate between mania and depression). Symptoms of mania include high energy, excitement, racing thoughts, and poor judgment. People with this type of depression are typically treated with drugs called mood stabilizers.

Premenstrual Dysphoric:

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, is a type of depression that affects women during the second half of their menstrual cycle. Symptoms include depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Unlike premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which affects up to 85 percent of women and has milder symptoms, PMDD affects about 5 percent of women and is much more severe.


Also called adjustment disorder, situational is triggered by a stressful or life-changing event. This includes a job loss, the death of a loved one, trauma, or even a bad breakup. Situational depression is about three times more common than major depression. Symptoms of situational depression may include excessive sadness, worry, or nervousness, and if they don’t go away, they may become warning signs of major depression.

Let CPA Help Too!

We know you need a toolbox full of skills in order to cope with the challenges life throws at us. At CPA, we will always encourage patients to explore coping mechanisms that work best for them. However, we also know that a number of those skills come from counseling and different methods of therapy. Cristina Panaccione and Associates has two locations in the South Hills. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help teach you the skills to fight depression!

Danielle A. LeFevre

Danielle A. LeFerve is a Nationally Certified Counselor with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health. She has an eclectic history of work experience which has afforded her the opportunity to work with both children and adults. She is knowledgeable in the areas concerned with Mood disorders, ODD, conduct disorders, crisis management, trauma, suicidality, family conflict, and life transitions. And she uses a person-centered, humanistic approach along with cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and attachment theory. She understands that life is a journey, one of which that is not always a smooth ride. That’s why she is here, to help you navigate the detours. She is passionate about facilitating a healthy overall well-being for all individuals, as she works to help you further your life goals.

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