What is depression?
Alternative names: Clinical depression; Major Depressive Disorder
Everyone feels down or low at certain points in their lives. But when the lows last for long periods of time and affect your general functioning and behaviour, you may be suffering from depression.
Depression, which must be distinguished from sadness or “the blues”, is a legitimate medical illness like high blood pressure and diabetes. Although it’s defined as a mood disorder, it affects more than just your mood. It affects your body (e.g. you may feel lethargic, have a lower sex drive, or lose or gain weight), your thoughts (e.g. you may have difficulty concentrating or struggle to make decisions), and your feelings (e.g. you may feel irritable).
Depression isn’t a sign of personal weakness. The illness cannot be wished away and those who are affected cannot simply “pull themselves together”.
Depression is associated with high rates of suicidal behaviour and also comes with a high risk of relapse. It’s therefore a serious, potentially life-threatening disease. It may also interfere with how you function at work or school and in your family environment.
The good news is that, with appropriate treatment, 90% of people with depression experience symptom relief. Up to 75% recover fully.
Reviewed by psychiatrist Dr Matthew Mausling, Life Kingsbury Hospital, Claremont. October 2018.