Adult Depression

What is Depression?

Feeling unhappy or sad in response to disappointment, loss, frustration or a medical condition is normal. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but that is really situational depression, which is a normal reaction to events around us.

There’s a vast difference between feeling depressed and suffering from clinical depression. The despondency of clinical depression is unrelenting and overwhelming. Some people describe it as living in a black hole or having a feeling of impending doom. They can’t escape their unhappiness and despair. However, some people with depression don’t feel sad at all. Instead, they feel lifeless and empty. In this apathetic state, they are unable to experience pleasure. Even when participating in activities they used to enjoy, they feel as if they’re just going through the motions. The signs and symptoms vary from person to person, and they may wax and wane in severity over time.

Depression and Men

Depression is a loaded word in our culture. Many associate it, however wrongly, as a sign of weakness and excessive emotion. This is especially true with men. Depressed men are less likely than women to acknowledge feelings of self-loathing and hopelessness. How is depression expressed in men? Frequently, it comes out in more socially acceptable forms. Anger, aggression, reckless behavior and violence, along with substance abuse, can be signs of an underlying depression. You might hear complaints about fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and loss of interest or sudden excessive interest in work and hobbies. Even though depression rates for women are twice as high as those in men, men are a higher suicide risk, especially older men.

Depression Signs and Symptoms

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • A bleak outlook – nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • No interest in or ability to enjoy former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain – a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month
  • Sleep changes
  • Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia)
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Either feeling keyed up and restless or sluggish and physically slowed down
  • Loss of energy
  • Feeling fatigued and physically drained. Even small tasks are exhausting or take longer
  • Self-loathing
  • Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Harsh criticism of perceived faults and mistakes
  • Concentration problems
  • Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things

**Clinical depression is distinguished from situational depression by length and severity.

Depression and Suicide

Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The deep despair and hopelessness that goes along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to make the pain go away. Suicidal individuals often give warning signs or signals of their intentions. The best way to prevent suicide is to know and watch for these warning signs and to get involved if you spot them. If you believe that a friend or family member is suicidal, you can play a role in suicide prevention by pointing out the alternatives, showing that you care, and getting a professional involved.

Learn about suicide warning signs.

Material adapted with permission from © 2008 All rights reserved.