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 Tina Merritt gave birth to her son Graham six years ago, she expected what all new mothers expect: a joyous experience getting to know her baby. Instead, she found that she was terrified of her own child.
“I came home and I cried for hours straight. I was afraid that somebody would leave me alone with this baby that I had no clue how to take care of,” she recalls.
Stricken with the fear that she would be an incompetent mother, Merritt went back to work when Graham was 6 weeks old, ceding most...
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