Depression: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

This article explores the symptoms, diagnosis, causes, and treatments of depression. This common mental disorder affects those of all ages, with around 17.3 million in the United States over the age of 18 experiencing at last one major depressive episode each year, equating to 7.1% of all American adults. Younger people are also impacted by depression, with 9.7% of young people in the United States experiencing severe major depression in the last year, compared to 9.2% the previous year.

Understanding the signs of depression is the first step to being able to treat and prevent it. This article will give you an in-depth understanding of what depression is, how it works and what you should do if you think you have it.

With depression being such a common condition throughout the United States, this article will also explain the benefits of booking a mental health therapy or counseling session.

Depression symptoms

There are many different signs of depression. It can affect people in different ways and a range of symptoms can be present. While it is common to feel down once in a while, having a regular or ongoing appearance of these symptoms suggests that a person is depressed. Depression can vary in severity, from mild to severe.

Symptoms of mild depression include:

  • Feeling deflated or low persistently
  • Having a lack of excitement for things you previously enjoyed
  • A lack of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Feeling empty or numb
  • Low sex drive
  • Feeling tired or having trouble sleeping
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety

Symptoms of severe depression include those associated with mild depression, as well as:

  • Inability to carry out self-care or fulfill responsibilities
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • A feeling of hopelessness
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping

Diagnosing depression

Clinical depression can be detrimental to mental and even physical health if left untreated. It is best to seek professional help and speak to a doctor if you believe you may be depressed.

Having a diagnosis is the first step towards recovery, as treatment and counseling can be given that can help to find a solution.

A medical professional usually begins by discussing your symptoms. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may recommend ‘watchful waiting’, a process of monitoring progress while seeing if time, self-help, or lifestyle changes can improve things.

What are the types of depression?

There are various types of depression, depending on the symptoms displayed and the length of time that a person has been depressed for. Types of depression include:

  • Major depression
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder (sometimes referred to as ‘manic depression’)
  • Psychotic depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Postpartum depression

What causes depression?

Many people seek the reason for their depression and this can play an essential role in understanding the cause and beginning to treat it. For some people, the cause of depression will be obvious, however for others, it may appear for no apparent reason.

Common causes of depression include:

  • Life events such as having a baby
  • Bereavement
  • Changing job
  • Financial difficulties
  • Having a family history of depression
  • Stressful events
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Loneliness or isolation
  • Illness or poor health

Treatment for depression

The most suitable form of treatment for depression depends on individual circumstances. Typically, treatment for depression will include a combination of talking therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Depression therapy and counseling

Depression therapy and counseling are both effective ways of coping with depression. Helping to gain a deeper understanding of those that are depressed, these can help an individual to find methods of coping with depression.

This treatment approach to depression can include the following methods:

Depression Symptoms How to Overcome Adversity
Depression Symptoms How to Overcome Adversity
  • Cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral treatment also referred to as CBT, is a method of talking therapy that is often an effective form of depression treatment. It involves teaching a person methods of controlling their typical thought patterns, in order to find a more positive outlook on situations. A therapist works with the person suffering from depression to identify any negative or irrational thought processes that they have. They then work to replace any of these beliefs or actions with more practical, optimistic thought processes. Many people find that cognitive behavioral treatment is a successful method of reducing or removing the negative thoughts that are associated with depression.

  • Interpersonal therapy

This is the process of using therapy to address past and present social roles and interactions with others. The purpose of this is to understand the role of those in a person’s life, whether it is friends, family, acquaintances, or colleagues. Once this has been established, the impact of these relationships are examined, finding ways to resolve conflicts and methods of coping in future situations, as well as developing a better social support system.

  • Psychodynamic therapy

This type of depression therapy is sometimes referred to as psychoanalytic therapy. It works on the principle that unresolved conflicts from a young age can cause depression, often without realizing it. Helping to develop self-awareness, psychodynamic therapy can help an individual to gain a greater understanding of the reasons that they feel depressed and then work on resolving these issues.


Medication can be given alongside other depression treatments and counseling. It works by balancing chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. The benefit of this is that it can help to improve mood, sleep quality, appetite, and concentration levels. Typically given to those with moderate to severe depression, this has proven to be an effective method of controlling the effects of depression.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of medication, 40 to 60% of people that took antidepressants for their depression noticed an improvement in their symptoms within six to eight weeks, in a study conducted by the NCBI.

Different types of antidepressants include:

  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Tricyclics and tricyclic-related drugs

Top tips for coping with depression

As well as seeking professional medical advice and counseling, there are other lifestyle changes that can help people that experience depression. These include:

  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Giving up smoking
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Exercising regularly
  • Sharing experiences with others in similar situations
  • Joining support groups
  • Reading self-help books
  • Understanding the triggers of depression

Book your session now with a licensed therapist!

Depression can be difficult to overcome if left untreated. Book a mental health therapy or counseling session today. Find a therapist