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#MentalHealthMatters: What Is Depression? Explained

Depression is a mental illness that results in a prolonged feeling of sadness and lack of interest in things you formerly found enjoyable.

Sushmita Sharma
Written by: Sushmita SharmaUpdated at: May 02, 2023 11:21 IST
#MentalHealthMatters: What Is Depression? Explained

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Most of us at some point in our lives must have felt low, lonely, and had no zeal to do any work or enjoy little things in life. You may have no motivation to wake up to another day and start your daily routine. Yet, you chose to move ahead thinking it's all in your head. This is how mental health is often overlooked, stigmatised and not considered at par with physical health. However, do not overlook these symptoms as it can be an indication of depression. It comes in many forms, needs immediate attention, and is treatable.

In the wake of rising mental health issues in the country, OnlyMyHealth has launched its first ever campaign ‘Mental Health Matters’. We bring you detailed insights on mental health with our articles every Tuesday and Friday.

In this article, we will delve into the details of depression, its symptoms, causes, complications, and treatment. We spoke to Chetna Luthra, Clinical Psychologist at Lissun, a mental health and emotional wellness startup, who explained the topic in detail.

What Is Depression

Depression is a mental illness that results in a prolonged feeling of sadness and an overwhelming lack of interest in things and activities you formerly found enjoyable. It can even affect your ability to think, remember, eat, and sleep. It's common to experience sadness or lament about difficult situations in life, such as losing your job or being divorced. But depression differs from general despair. 

It lasts almost every day for at least two weeks and manifests in more symptoms than just sadness. It may not have been caused just by a specific or visible reason. 

Most people simply refer to clinical depression as “depression”, sometimes known as major depressive disorder. 

Depressive illnesses come in many different forms. It can be mild, moderate, or severe, and have a range of symptoms. It can worsen and stay longer if not treated. In extreme cases, it could result in self-harm. 

Also Read: Mothers Dealing With Postpartum Depression Can Benefit From Sound Therapy, Expert Weighs In

Symptoms Of Depression

The symptoms of depression are frequently severe enough to prevent many depressed people from going about their regular lives, including going to work, going to school, interacting with others, or maintaining intimate relationships. Unable to pinpoint the source, some people may feel perpetually unhappy.

Depression Symptoms In Children And Teens

Common depression signs and symptoms in children and teens are similar to those in adults, although there may be significant distinctions as well.

Symptoms in younger children may include melancholy, impatience, clinginess, concern, aches and pains, refusal to attend school, or becoming underweight.

Symptoms in teens include:

  • Anxiety, irritability, or feeling of negativity or worthlessness
  • Poor performance in school
  • Feeling misinterpreted and highly vulnerable 
  • Use of recreational drugs or alcohol
  • Eating or sleeping excessively
  • Self-harming behaviours
  • Loss of enthusiasm in normal activities
  • Avoiding social interactions 

Depression Symptoms In Older Adults

Depression is never to be taken lightly because it is not a typical aspect of ageing. Unfortunately, elderly people who are depressed regularly go unnoticed and neglected, and they can become reluctant to seek help. Depressive symptoms can manifest in older people in a variety of ways:

Physical Aches

Fatigue, loss of appetite, sleep issues, or loss of interest in sex. This is not brought on by a medical issue, medication, significant weight loss or gain, or self-neglect.

Not Socialising

A tendency to prefer staying at home rather than venturing out to meet new people or try new things.

Suicidal Thoughts

There may be an increase in suicidal thoughts or feelings, especially among older men. This can sometimes occur with organic brain diseases as well, which makes it harder to diagnose and worsens the prognosis.

What Causes Depression?

The underlying origin of depression is unknown. It is believed that several factors, including the following, have contributed to its development:

Brain Chemistry

Depression is influenced by a deficiency of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine.


You have a roughly three-fold increased risk of developing depression if you have a first-degree family member (a biological parent or sibling) who has the illness. But depression can exist even when there is no familial history of the condition.

Nerve-wracking Life Experiences

Major life events that may need adjustment and ongoing stress, such as the loss of a family member or close friend, trauma, divorce, isolation and loneliness, and a lack of support, can all cause depression. 

Medical Conditions

Depression can be brought on by long-term illnesses like diabetes and severe pain.


Depression is a common adverse effect of several medications. Alcohol usage is one of the substances that might cause depression or worsen it.

What Are The Complications Of Depression?

It is a dangerous ailment that, if untreated, can worsen. It can lead  to physical illness, behavioural issues, and emotional issues that can impact every aspect of the sufferer’s life. Some of the complications that one may face are:

  • Putting on weight or being obese might cause a condition called metabolic syndrome, heart disease, or diabetes
  • Suffering from bodily ailment and discomfort
  • Misusing drugs or alcohol, which can have several negative effects on one’s life, society, and health
  • Experiencing anxiety, social phobia, or panic attacks
  • Self-mutilation by cutting or other methods
  • Suffering from various medical illnesses or disorders that result in early death
  • Emotional disturbances can result in poor professional life and poor relationships 
  • In worst  cases, planning, attempting, or actually dying by suicide

How Is Depression Treated?

Despite being serious, depression is one of the most curable mental health issues. About 80% of depressed individuals who seek treatment eventually get better. Here are some treatment measures: 


Sometimes known as talk therapy, this includes communication with a mental wellness expert. Your therapist assists you in recognising and altering unhelpful feelings, beliefs, and behaviours. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is among the most popular forms of psychotherapy. However, several other psychotherapeutic modalities can be used.  Some people attend therapy for months or even years.


Prescription drugs known as antidepressants may be able to alter the brain chemistry that underlies depression. Antidepressants come in a variety of forms, so choosing the right one for you may take some time and will need a doctor’s advice and prescription. 

Also Read: 7 Signs You Are Healing From Depression

Complementary Medicine

This refers to medical procedures that you could undergo in addition to conventional therapies. These include acupuncture, massage, hypnosis, and biofeedback, which can enhance the health of people with moderate depression or persistent symptoms. Never, however, decide just on your own. You need to have a doctor as your anchor, guiding you out of the illness.

Brain Stimulation Treatment

People with moderate to severe depression coupled with psychosis may benefit from brain stimulation therapy. Electroconvulsive treatment (ECT), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) are examples of brain stimulation therapies, which may be recommended by an expert.


There are things you may do at your home to lessen the effects of depression, such as engaging in regular physical activity, getting sufficient sleep, adopting a balanced diet, refraining from alcohol, and spending time with those you value.