Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being.
People with a depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, angry, ashamed or restless. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, experience relationship difficulties and may contemplate, attempt or commit suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems or reduced energy may also be present.
Depressed mood is a feature of some psychiatric syndromes such as major depressive disorder, but it may also be a normal reaction, as long as it does not persist long term, to life events such as bereavement, a symptom of some bodily ailments or a side effect of some drugs and medical treatments. A DSM diagnosis distinguishes an episode (or ‘state’) of depression from the habitual (or ‘trait’) depressive symptoms someone can experience as part of their personality.
Adversity in childhood, such as bereavement, neglect, mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and unequal parental treatment of siblings can contribute to depression in adulthood. Childhood physical or sexual abuse in particular, if not dealt with, significantly correlates with the likelihood of experiencing depression over the life course.
Life events and changes that may precipitate depressed mood include childbirth, menopause, financial difficulties, job problems, a medical diagnosis (cancer, HIV, etc.), bullying, loss of a loved one, natural disasters, social isolation, rape, relationship troubles, jealousy, separation, and catastrophic injury.Adolescents may be especially prone to experiencing depressed mood following social rejection, peer pressure and bullying.