Depression, clinically known as major depressive disorder, is a pervasive mood disorder that engulfs individuals in a state of unyielding sadness or a profound lack of interest in life. While it is normal for most people to experience occasional feelings of sadness, especially in response to loss or life's challenges, depression goes beyond typical sorrow and can severely impact a person's ability to function and enjoy life. It is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression to seek proper care and treatment.
Is Depression Curable?
Unlike some illnesses that have definitive cures, there is no straightforward cure for depression. The condition itself may not completely vanish, but with appropriate care and treatment, individuals can achieve remission and lead fulfilling, healthy lives. Seeking help from mental health professionals and following prescribed treatment plans are crucial steps in managing depression effectively.
What Does Depression Feel Like?

To diagnose depression, healthcare professionals often refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which outlines specific criteria for the condition. According to the DSM-5, an individual may have depression if they experience five or more of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:
  • Depressed Mood: A persistently low mood, particularly noticeable in the morning.
  • Fatigue and Lack of Energy: Feeling tired and drained almost every day.
  • Worthlessness or Guilt: Experiencing feelings of worthlessness or guilt on a frequent basis.
  • Hopelessness or Pessimism: A pervasive sense of hopelessness or pessimism about life.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Finding it challenging to focus, remember details, or make decisions.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia or excessive sleepiness occurring almost daily.
  • Anhedonia: A significant decrease in interest or pleasure in most activities.
  • Thoughts of Death or Suicide: Persistent thoughts about death or suicide, beyond typical fear of dying.
  • Restlessness or Slowed Movements: Feeling restless or experiencing slowed-down movements.
  • Changes in Appetite or Weight: Significant changes in appetite, leading to weight gain or loss.
Depression symptoms can manifest differently in individuals, and their severity, frequency, and duration may vary. Some people may experience seasonal patterns of depression, known as seasonal affective disorder, where symptoms worsen during certain times of the year, particularly in colder, darker months.
In addition to emotional symptoms, depression can present with physical signs, such as joint pain, back pain, digestive issues, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite. This overlap occurs because brain chemicals involved in depression, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, play a role in both mood regulation and pain perception.
Depression in Children and Teens
Depression in children and teenagers differs from typical "blues" or transient emotions. While occasional sadness is normal for young individuals, persistent and disruptive sadness that interferes with daily life may indicate depression. Signs of potential depression in children include behavioral changes, withdrawal from social activities, declining school performance, or substance use. Identifying and addressing depression early in childhood can significantly improve long-term outcomes.
What are the different forms of depression?
Medical professionals can diagnose various types of depressive disorders, each with unique features and characteristics. Some of the recognized types of depression include:
  • Unipolar Major Depression: The most common form of depression characterized by persistent sadness and lack of interest.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): A chronic form of depression lasting for at least two years.
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: Occurring in children and teens, this condition involves severe irritability and intense outbursts that surpass typical emotional responses.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): A severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) involving intense mood disturbances before menstruation.
  • Substance-Induced Mood Disorder (SIMD): Depression symptoms triggered or exacerbated by drug or alcohol use.
  • Depressive Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition: Depression resulting from certain medical conditions, such as chronic illness or hormonal imbalances.
Other Depressive Disorders, such as minor depression. Depression may also present with specific features, including:
  • Anxious Distress: Excessive worry and fear of losing control.
  • Mixed Features: Experiencing both depression and mania, characterized by high energy, excessive talking, and high self-esteem.
  • Atypical Features: Feeling temporarily better after positive events, increased appetite, excessive sleep, and sensitivity to rejection.
  • Psychotic Features: Holding false beliefs (delusions) or experiencing hallucinations.
  • Catatonia: A state of immobility or uncontrollable movements.
  • Peripartum Depression: Depression that begins during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth.
  • Seasonal Pattern: Symptoms worsening during specific seasons, especially during colder and darker months.
  • Depression Coexisting with Other Conditions
Depression can often coexist with other medical or mental health problems, including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, phobias, substance use disorders, and eating disorders. It is essential to address any additional health issues alongside depression to ensure comprehensive treatment and support.
Depression and Suicide
Depression can lead to severe emotional distress, and in some cases, it may result in suicidal thoughts or actions. It is crucial to take any indications of suicidal ideation or self-harm seriously. If you or someone you know is contemplating self-harm or suicide, immediate help should be sought from mental health professionals or emergency services. Calling suicide hotlines, such as 988, can provide immediate support and guidance.

Free Mental Health Assessment

Mental Health America recognizes the significance of accessible and prompt mental health support for individuals experiencing potential symptoms of mental health conditions. To aid in this effort, MHA offers free mental health screenings. Through awareness, support, and appropriate interventions, we can work together to build a more compassionate and mentally healthy world for everyone.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    Call 988
    The 988 Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States. 
  • Crisis Text Line

    Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime. Crisis Text Line is here for any crisis. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, all from our secure online platform. The volunteer Crisis Counselor will help you move from a hot moment to a cool moment. 
  • Trevor Project Lifeline

    Call 1-866-488-7368
    Text ‘START’ to 678-678
    Or chat online

    Trained counselors that understand the challenges LGBTQ people face.