Depression: Symptoms, Causes, Risks, and Treatment

Shreya Nayak

February 2, 2022

Depression is a mood disorder common among several people around the world. It’s associated with feelings of anger, sadness, or loss that can affect your everyday activities to a great extent. This article will discuss depression, its causes, symptoms, risks, along with how you can overcome this state.

During a depressive episode, a person may experience a state of mourning in which everything appears dull, pleasant emotions fade away, and joyful memories melt away. Several factors may cause depression. For example, childhood trauma, medical conditions, family history, hormone levels, brain chemistry, pain, stress, financial issues, etc., are some of the leading causes.

This mood disorder can be risky as it may cause suicidal feelings and prevent productivity and positivity. However, the positive side is that one can overcome this state of mind. However, it is a slow process and will take time. With support and care one can fight this condition. There are specific steps that a therapist may advise you to perform for tackling depression. Let’s discuss it together.

What is Depression?

Depression is also known as a major depressive disorder. It’s a pretty common yet severe illness that can negatively affect your overall health. It will add changes to your behaviour and thinking, along with your feelings.

If one suffers from depression, they may experience feeling disinterested, which may lead to the feeling of sadness and misery. Hence, it may lead to both physical and emotional problems. However, one shouldn’t mistake grief for depression or vice versa. In a state of grief, you will only notice a decrease in your positive feelings. On the other hand, in depression, you will constantly feel sadness, anger, or both. However, it is treatable.

If you think you have this depressive disorder. but aren’t sure about it, you should check whether you have symptoms.

Depression Symptoms

During the phase of suffering from depression, you may notice yourself dealing with a low mood (feeling empty, irritable, sad, etc.) or lacking interest in any activities. If it prevails every day for two weeks or more with at least four or more symptoms, then you may have to look for professional help.

You may have many other symptoms, such as hopelessness, low self-esteem, guilt, low energy levels, etc. Let’s check out the different signs of depression.

General Symptoms

  • Crying more often
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, pessimistic
  • Feeling anxious, empty or sad all the time
  • Lack of interest in activities (even in your favourite hobbies)
  • Issues in remembering things, making decisions, and concentrating
  • Talking slow and staying inactive
  • Lower energy or fatigue
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Always being angry, irritated, bothered, or annoyed
  • Difficulties in your sleeping schedules
  • Thoughts regarding suicide, death, or self-harm

You can also recognise other signs of through the below points.

Symptoms of Depression in Adults

  • Sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, anxiousness, aggressiveness, or restlessness
  • Problems in focusing, concentrating, talking slowly and difficulties in completing tasks
  • Physical symptoms like headache, pain fatigue, or digestive problems
  • Lack of sexual performance or sexual desire
  • Excessive sleepiness, restless sleep, less sleep, or insomnia
  • Not interested in activities (including favourite activities), excessive drinking, suicidal thoughts, drug usage, engaging in risky activities
  • Increased fatigue, weight changes, reduced energy
  • Increased cramps, appetite changes, headaches, pain, or aches
  • Losing interest in any activities, suicidal thoughts, becoming unsocial

Symptoms in Teens

  • Distancing from friends and family
  • Becoming antisocial
  • Restless all the time (like inability to stay calm and still)
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless, worthless, or hopeless
  • Thinking that the future is hopeless
  • High sensitivity to failure or rejection
  • Always needing reassurance
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Self-criticism, self-blame, or being fixated on past failures

Symptoms in Children

  • Rapid mood changes, crying, irritability, or anger
  • Difficulties or changes in the sleep cycle
  • Avoiding friends, family, and siblings
  • Getting into trouble at school, avoiding school, self-harm, suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of energy, digestive problems, weight gain or loss, changes in appetite
  • Changes in grades or school performance

Types of Depression

There are several types of depression. Some of the most common types include:

1. Major Depression

People with major depression may feel constant sadness and lack interest in their most-loved activities. This type is usually treated through psychotherapy and medication.

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia has symptoms that can last for approximately two years at the very least. Those who suffer from this disorder are likely to experience several episodes of major depression and have milder symptoms.

3. Bipolar Disorder

Most of the time, individuals suffering from this will show symptoms of acute depression. Hence, it’s pretty difficult to distinguish bipolar disorder from depression. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that leads to changes in energy, mood, concentration, activities, performing tasks, etc.

4. Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression is a subtype of major depression that occurs when a severe depressive illness includes symptoms of psychosis. For example, it could be hallucinations (such as hearing a voice telling you that you are no good or worthless), delusions (intense feelings of worthlessness, failure, or having sinned), or some other break with reality. 

Data suggests that psychotic depression affects roughly four out of a thousand individuals. The conditions may become severe and may require hospitalisation. Some studies also indicate that 25% of patients admitted to hospitals for depression also suffer psychotic depression.

5. Postpartum Depression

This is experienced by women post their pregnancy and after giving birth. 

It is also called baby blues. Women experience mood changes after giving birth. These mood changes result from the hormonal level readjustments. Also known as postnatal depression, postpartum depression is more severe and can continue for months or even years. It doesn’t happen for a single cause. Women who go through this type depressive period which needs immediate medical attention.

While the symptoms of postpartum depression vary from person to person, there are some symptoms that remain constant like anger, guilt, mood swings, restlessness, loss of appetite etc. 

5. Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern

People also recognise this type of depression as S.A.D. or seasonal affective disorder. It occurs when seasonal changes occur in winter or fall, leading to a reduction in daylight. People dwelling in countries with severe or long winters tend to get affected by this type of depression.

Causes of Depression 

Several reasons may cause this condition. It can be due to unavoidable circumstances or biological issues. Some of the prevalent causes of depression are:

1. Hormonal Changes: 

It may occur in females due to hormonal changes. These hormones are estrogen and progesterone. It can occur in different situations like the postpartum period, menstrual cycle, menopause, perimenopause, etc. All these may increase the risk of a person getting depression.

2. Brain Chemistry 

Chemical imbalances that may take place in different parts of your brain can also cause depression. Such imbalances occur in parts that manage your sleep, thoughts, appetite, mood, and behaviour.

3. Family History 

If your family members have suffered from earlier depression or any other mood disorder, then there is a possibility that you may get it too. 

4. Childhood Trauma 

Certain childhood events or past trauma may lead to depression, affecting how your body reacts to different situations like stress or fear.

5. Medical Conditions

Studies show that several medical conditions may lead to depression. For example, if someone is going through a severe health problem like cancer, heart attack, or stroke, they may go into a state of depression. Furthermore, several illnesses like hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, etc., may trigger depression.

6. Stress

Severe or stressful life events may also lead to depression. For example, stressful situations such as trauma, bad relationships, financial problems, abuse, taking care of older people or children, or losing a loved one.

Risk Factors of Depression

Genetical Risks: If you have a family history of depression, you are most likely to experience depression. Similarly, if you have depression, you may pass it on to generations.

Gender: Studies show that females have more risk of major depression than men. In addition, transgender and other members of the LGBTQ+ community are more at risk of getting depression than cisgenders. It’s all due to social stigma and discrimination.

Medications: Certain medications may have effects that increase the chances of getting depression. These medications may include corticosteroids, hormonal birth control, beta-blockers, etc.

Vitamin D Deficiency: Studies show that vitamin D also plays a role in depression. There is an increased risk of depression with decreased vitamin D levels in the human body.

Societal Status: When an individual goes through financial problems or has lower societal levels based on class, they may be at high risk of getting into a state of depression. Factors like stress and lifestyle may act as triggers that induce depression.

Medical Conditions: Several chronic medical illnesses may lead to depression. Studies show that up to 25% of people with cancer may suffer from depression. The same goes for people having heart disease, as they have a double risk of getting depression compared to those who don’t suffer from heart disease. 

Treatment for Depression

People tend to suppress depression through several means like increased alcohol consumption, drug usage, tough it out, or some even go for herbal remedies. However, if the depression prevails for long or is severe, the best way is to seek medical treatment.

Mental health professionals can help you with the correct diagnosis and treatment for your depression. Furthermore, early diagnosis and treatment can help you overcome the early  symptoms of depression.

1. Depression Medication

Antidepressants can assist in treating moderate and severe stages of depression.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

  • Atypical antidepressants
  • SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • SNRIs or selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors

Experts believe that one of the leading causes of depression is chemical imbalances in the brain like serotonin which means that your nerves won’t get signals properly. Antidepressants can assist in increasing the levels of these chemicals in your brain to function in a better way.

Side effects: SNRIs and SSRIs can leave specific side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea, low blood pressure, constipation, rash, weight loss, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, dizziness, tremor, etc., as per research.

Furthermore, antidepressants may also lead to suicidal thoughts when you start using them. So, it’s better to go with medically prescribed drugs and seek support from your loved ones, riends/family members to cope with it.

2. Psychotherapy

Coping up with your negative feelings and dealing with depression can be easier if you seek help from a therapist. They are professionals trained to help you and guide you in regulating your emotions and managing negative thoughts.

Studies show that psychotherapy can be a helpful treatment for depression. It’s also called “talk therapy.” In this therapy, a trained therapist will talk to you, identify your problems and assist you to cope with certain factors affecting your mental health. There are distinct types of psychotherapy such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) allows finding out what unhealthy thoughts are causing reactions, harmful behaviour, and beliefs about yourself. You will bring in self awareness with small self help based tasks that will help change your negative thoughts into positive ones.
  • Psychodynamic therapy allows you to cope with your day-to-day life through talk therapy.
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is related to CBT and focuses on accepting uncomfortable thoughts, behaviours, feelings, validation, etc., instead of fighting with it.

3. Light Therapy

You can also improve your depression symptoms and regulate your mood through exposure to white light. If you have seasonal affective disorder (depressive disorder with seasonal pattern), then light therapy can be helpful.

4. Electroconvulsive Therapy 

This type of treatment may help patients with severe depressions or depression that other treatments can’t cure. In this treatment, the patient gets an anaesthetic agent for putting them into sleep for around 5-10 minutes. Then they will give you short electrical pulses for some time (seconds).

Natural Remedies and Lifestyle Tips 

Specific natural remedies can help you get chances of reduced depression symptoms. Including nutrients like Omega 3 fatty acids, folic acids, magnesium can help lower the impact of depression. Furthermore, having a healthy lifestyle will allow you to become more positive. Following the below tips shall help you.

1. Avoid Alcohol 

Drinking alcohol may ease your troubles for a bit but won’t help you cope with depression. Instead, it contains substances that can increase your anxiety symptoms and make your depression worse.

2. Exercise Regularly 

Exercising regularly will enable you to be active, and your body will be more productive. In addition, the more active you are, the less will be your depression symptoms.

Exercising will enable your body to produce more endorphins (chemicals that relieve pain and boosts mood) which will improve your mood and help in treating depression naturally. Hence, you should go for approximately 30 minutes of exercise every day.

3. Self-care 

Indulging in self-care reduce depression symptoms. To do this, you can start with getting into your favourite hobbies, eating healthy food, getting a good amount of sleep, etc.

4. Set Boundaries

Don’t mix up your professional and private life. It can overwhelm you and grill you up with loads of thoughts and stress that automatically may worsen your depression. Instead, you should have a work- life balance..

Food and Diet

You should consume less processed or sugary foods. These foods may lead to health problems. As per a 2019 study, these foods may even lead to mental health issues in young adults. 

You can stay healthy and reduce your depression symptoms through these food items:

  • Selenium-containing foods like brazil nuts, whole grains, or seafood can help in reducing anxiety and improving your mood.
  • As per research, food containing vitamin D, such as fortified dairy products, oily fish, eggs, beef liver, etc., can help improve depression symptoms.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids help treat depressive disorders as it enhances brain function helps in protecting nerve cells through the preservation of myelin sheath. Its good sources include walnuts, cold-water fish like tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel, chia seeds, flaxseed oil, and flaxseed.
  • Food containing antioxidants can help remove free radicals (waste products in the body) and even oxidate stress. As a result, It will decrease the symptoms. Plant-based fresh foods like berries, soy, vegetables, etc., contain antioxidants.
  • Vitamin B can assist in managing and protecting the nervous system and brain, which reduces the risks of increased mood disorder symptoms. Hence, you should consume more meat, eggs, seafood, milk, dark leafy vegetables, beans, etc.
  • People with depression have low zinc levels. In contrast, increased zinc levels can help antidepressants function better. Therefore, you should eat zinc-rich food such as beans, meat, suits, pumpkin seeds, etc.
  • You should also eat protein-rich food such as turkey, tuna, and chickpeas as they help create serotonin (feel-good hormones).

Depression Test 

A medical healthcare professional can help diagnose your depression based on your psychological evaluation and symptoms. Usually, they will have questions regarding your:

  • Appetite
  • Mood
  • Sleep patterns
  • Thoughts
  • Activity levels

The medical healthcare professional may also perform some tests as depression can also be linked to other medical health issues such as vitamin D deficiency and thyroid problems. So if you feel that you have symptoms of depression and your mood doesn’t lighten up, you should seek professional help.


Depression is a common illness globally. Research by WHO shows that approximately 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. It’s a mood disorder that can make you feel like life isn’t worth living.

It has several treatments, both medical and natural. However, if you face mild to severe depression symptoms, it’s better to seek professional care. They can prepare different treatment plans that may help you lessen the symptoms of depression and recover from it.

About the Author

Shreya Nayak holds a Master's degree in Psychology from the Indian Institute of Psychology and Research, Bangalore. Shreya's passion to help people led her to pursue this field. As a counsellor, she firmly believes that with compassion, empathy, and guidance one can achieve overall holistic and mental wellness. Shreya uses an eclectic approach which helps her guide her clients in achieving their true potential.

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