It can also cause physical symptoms of pain, appetite changes, and sleep problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly 10 percent of adults aged 40 to 59 years had depression between 2009 and 2012. However, despite its prevalence, depression isn’t always easy to identify.
Symptoms and causes of depression can vary widely from person to person. Gender may also play an important role in why a person is affected by depression, and what it feels like to them.
How depression feels
One of the common misunderstandings about depression is that it’s similar to feeling sad or down.
Although many people with depression feel sadness, it feels much more severe than emotions that come and go in response to life events.
The symptoms of depression can last for months or years and can make it difficult or impossible to carry on with daily life.
It can disrupt careers, relationships, and daily tasks such as self-care and housework.
Doctors will usually look for symptoms that have lasted at least 2 weeks as possible signs of depression.
Depression may feel like:
- There’s no pleasure or joy in life. A person with depression may not enjoy things they once loved and may feel like nothing can make them happy.
- Concentration or focus becomes harder. Making any kind of decisions, reading, or watching television can seem taxing with depression because people can’t think clearly or follow what’s happening.
- Everything feels hopeless, and there’s no way to feel better. Depression may make a person feel that there’s no way ever to feel good again.
- Self-esteem is often absent. People with depression may feel like they are worthless or a failure at everything. They may dwell on negative events and experiences and be unable to see positive qualities in themselves.
- Sleeping may be problematic. Falling asleep at night or staying asleep all night can feel nearly impossible for some people with depression. A person may wake up early and not be able to go back to sleep. Others may sleep excessvely, but still wake up feeling tired or unrefreshed, despite the extra hours of sleep.
- Energy levels are low to nonexistent. Some people feel like they can’t get out of bed, or feel exhausted all the time even when getting enough sleep. They may feel that they are too tired to do simple daily tasks.
- Food may not seem appetizing. Some people with depression feel like they don’t want to eat anything, and have to force themselves to eat. This can result in weight loss.
- Food may be used as a comfort or coping tool. Although some people with depression don’t want to eat, others can overeat and crave unhealthy or comfort foods. This can lead to weight gain.
- Aches and pains may be present. Some people experience headaches, nausea, body aches, and other pains with depression.
Many people mistakenly believe that being depressed is a choice, or that they need to have a positive attitude. Friends and loved ones often get frustrated or don’t understand why a person can’t “snap out of it.” They may even say that the person has nothing to be depressed about.
Common causes and risk factors
Depression can be caused by a number of factors. Though a single cause cannot always be found, experts recognize the following as possible causes:
- Genetics: Depression and other mood disorders can run in families, though family history alone does not mean a person will get depression.
- Life events: Major life changes and stressful events may trigger depression. These events include divorce, the death of a loved one, job loss, or financial problems.
- Hormonal changes: Depression and low mood are often associated with menopause, pregnancy, and premenstrual disorders.
- Certain illnesses: Anxiety, long-term pain, diabetes, and heart disease may make someone more likely to develop depression. Depression is a symptom of bipolar disorder.
- Drug and alcohol abuse: In some cases, drug and alcohol abuse may cause depression. Other times, depression may cause a person to start abusing drugs or alcohol.
- Some medications: Certain prescription medicines may increase the risk of depression. These include some high blood pressure medications, steroids, and some cancer drugs.
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