Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by sadness, or having the blues. Nearly everyone feels sad or down from time to time. Sometimes, however, the sad feelings become intense, last for long periods, keep a person from leading a normal life, and can interfere with sleep, appetite, and energy.
When Scott Davis, 38, was suffering from major depression, he confided in his sister-law. “One day I found myself talking to her about all my fears about the depression, and the medication and therapy I was beginning. I was overcome with anxiety about my future, and she said, ‘I’ve been there.’ Those three words lifted all the pain I was feeling.”
Few decisions are as personal as whether to tell a loved one that you are suffering from major depression. “Telling someone about depression isn’t something...
Feeling very fatigued and slow or anxious and irritable
Loss of enjoyment in things, which were once pleasurable
Lack of energy
Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
Changes in appetite that lead to changes in weight
An increase or decrease in the need for sleep
Thoughts of death or suicide, or attempting suicide (if you are thinking of acting on ideas about suicide, it is important to get help or call your local 24-hour suicide hotline right away).
Depression is classified as major if the person has at least five of these symptoms for two weeks or more. However, there are several types of depressive disorders. Someone with fewer than five of these symptoms who is having difficulty functioning should still seek treatment for his or her symptoms. Tell your doctor how you are feeling. He or she may refer you to a mental health care specialist.
How Are Sleep and Depression Linked?
An inability to sleep, or insomnia, can be one of the signs of depression (a small percentage of depressed people, approximately 15%, oversleep or sleep too much). Lack of sleep alone cannot cause depression, but it does play a role. Lack of sleep caused by another medical illness or by personal problems can make depression worse. An inability to sleep that lasts over a long period of time is also an important clue that someone may be depressed.
What Causes Depression?
No one knows for sure what causes depression, but several factors have been linked to it, including:
Family history of mental disorders
Abnormalities in brain circuits that regulate mood
Physical and mental health disorders
Environment, such as living in a place that is often cloudy and gray