What is Depression?

Not all feelings of sadness or grief point to a depressive disorder. Clinical depression extends beyond short-lived experiences of sorrow, often occurs without any logical reason, and interferes with an individual’s ability to function on a daily basis.

Depression Symptoms

An individual may suffer from depression when they exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Persistent feeling of sadness
  • Decreased in hobbies or activities that were previously enjoyable
  • Feelings of numbness and/or hopelessness
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Significant fluctuations in body weight
  • Difficulty with concentration, restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal thoughts

Causes of Depression

Depression is considered to stem from a combination of genetic, psychological, environmental, and biological factors. While there is no single, definitive cause of depressive illness, some theorize that causes of depression include:

  • Genetics/family history of depression
  • A traumatic or highly stressful experience
  • Abnormalities in parts of the brain that involved mood, sleep, appetite, and behavior

Depression Treatment

Upon diagnosis, depressive illness should be taken seriously and it is best for those affected to seek immediate help. Psychotherapy and/or medication are common and effective forms of treatment for depression.


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A type of therapy that allows patients to see the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The technique of CBT lies in the understanding of that connection and how it underlies and affects depression.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): A time-limited form of therapy that focuses on exploring and working through an individual’s relationships. It targets symptom resolution, improved interpersonal functioning, and increased social support through techniques such as role playing and communication analysis.


Common medications are known as antidepressants and come in the form of either selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): Frequently used medication for depression, common SSRIs include fluoxetime (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluvoxamine (Luvox). These medications strengthen the signal between serotonin and certain neurons, resulting in a reduction of anxiety.
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs decrease depression by changing the levels of naturally occurring brain chemicals that help brain cells send and receive messages. This is known to boost mood. SNRIs are similar to SSRIs and include venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
Date of original publication: November 19, 2014
Updated on: March 23, 2016
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