Depression: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Depression: What Is It?

Depression is a prevalent mental health condition that affects individuals across different age groups, including children, adolescents, and adults. It is not merely a state of low mood or sadness, but a complex disorder that impacts a person's emotional, physical, and mental well-being, influencing their behavior and manifesting through a variety of physical symptoms. This condition does not discriminate based on gender, although it appears to be more prevalent in one group over the other.

Depression is generally characterized by persistent sadness, lack of interest in normal activities, inability to experience pleasure, changes in biological rhythms like sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and other cognitive disorders. Physical symptoms such as headaches, lack of energy, and muscle pain are also common indicators. For a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must be present all day and persist for at least two weeks.

Diverse Forms of Depression

Depression is not a singular condition, but a term used to describe a variety of disorders, each with its unique characteristics. Some of these include:

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Commonly known as clinical depression, is a prevalent and serious mental health condition characterized by persistent and pervasive feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities


Also referred to as Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), is a chronic and enduring form of depression that extends over an extended period. Unlike major depressive disorder (MDD), dysthymia is characterized by milder but long-lasting symptoms, persisting for at least two years in adults and one year in children and adolescents

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive syndrome, is characterized by rapid and extreme mood swings. These can range from periods of intense sadness to euphoria, often accompanied by insomnia, agitation, or psychosis.


This disorder features a minimum duration of two years and is characterized by alternating chronic fluctuations mild to moderate depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes that are less severe than those observed in bipolar disorder.

Masked Depression

This form of depression is characterized by physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues, cardiac problems, or respiratory disorders. The emotional aspects of depression are often overshadowed by these physical symptoms, making it harder to diagnose.

Anxious Depression

In this variant, depressive symptoms are accompanied by symptoms akin to anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks or intense agitation. This form of depression can include a persistent fear of illness, and in severe cases, delusions of having an incurable disease.

Atypical Depression

Atypical depression is characterized by symptoms like panic attacks, excessive sleepiness, overeating, weight gain, and heightened sensitivity to criticism or loss. Symptoms often intensify in the evening.

Hysteroid Dysphoria

This is a variant of atypical depression, primarily affecting individuals with a heightened concern for others' judgment and a tendency to dramatize rejection experiences. Individuals with this condition often exhibit excessive emotional responses to environmental stimuli, ranging from intense depression to euphoria.

Agitated Depression

Agitated depression is marked by restlessness, irritability, and an inability to relax. Individuals with this condition may exhibit signs of psychomotor agitation, such as speaking excitedly, writhing, or constantly moving.

Depression with Psychotic Manifestations

This form of depression, accounting for approximately 10% of all depression cases, features delusions and hallucinations alongside classic depressive symptoms. It carries a significant risk of suicide and often requires hospitalization.

Mental Depression

Mental depression refers to depression accompanied by organic disorders, leading to a slowdown or cessation of psychomotor activity. This form of depression can lead to severe physical health issues if left untreated.

Cotard Syndrome

This rare form of depression typically affects individuals with organic brain problems. It is characterized by anxiety and affective depersonalization, with individuals often denying their existence or that of their loved ones.

Endogenous, Reactive, and Secondary Depression

Endogenous depression arises from genetic-biological or unconscious causes present in the individual's personality. Reactive depression, on the other hand, occurs following traumatic events, such as the loss of a loved one or a personal failure. Secondary depression is a type of depression that arises as a result of other organic diseases or certain pharmacological treatments.

Depression Across the Lifespan

Depression can affect individuals at any stage of life, from childhood to old age. Childhood depression, adolescent depression, senile depression, and postpartum depression are all forms of depression that affect specific age groups, each with their unique set of symptoms and challenges.

Seasonal Emotional Disorder

This form of depression is characterized by a seasonal recurrence of depressive symptoms, typically during the autumn and winter months, alternating with manic or hypomanic disorders in the spring and summer months.

Causes of Depression

The exact mechanisms triggering depression remain unclear. However, it is generally accepted that depression may result from the interaction of multiple factors.

Biological factors, such as changes affecting brain function, are considered significant. Neurotransmitters, which facilitate the normal transmission of nervous impulses, play a crucial role in mood regulation and response to emotional stimuli, and their dysfunction may contribute to depression.

Genetic factors also come into play, with some individuals having a predisposition to developing depression. This susceptibility is often hereditary, as evidenced by multiple members of the same family suffering from depression.

Psychosocial factors can also trigger depression. While depression can occur without any apparent reason, often the first episode is associated with a negative triggering event such as stressful past experiences, disappointments, or unfulfilling relationships.

Environmental factors, such as the discrepancy between natural and social rhythms, unsatisfactory relationships or jobs, insufficient rest, poor exposure to sunlight, and substance abuse, can also predispose individuals to depression.

Several hypotheses suggest that depression may be caused by an alteration in the levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Some of these hypotheses include the monoaminergic hypothesis, receptor sensitivity hypothesis, permissive hypothesis, and hormonal hypothesis.

The Role of Diet

The correlation between diet and depression is a topic of ongoing debate. While some research suggests a link, the impact is not always significant. However, a balanced diet is generally recommended. Certain dietary choices, such as consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and maintaining a balanced intake of carbohydrates, can potentially support mental health. On the other hand, certain foods and substances, such as alcoholic beverages, foods high in histamine, tyramine, and glutamate, and diets low in carbohydrates or high in cholesterol and fats, should be avoided.

Symptoms of Depression

Recognizing the symptoms of depression is crucial for early diagnosis and effective treatment. Depression is typically marked by persistent sadness, feelings of despair, self-devaluation, a significant decrease in interest or pleasure in activities, lack of or excess energy, significant weight changes, sleep disorders, difficulty concentrating, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression can manifest at varying levels of severity. Some individuals might exhibit low-intensity symptoms tied to specific life events, while others might feel so depressed that they cannot carry out normal daily activities. Despite these variations, most forms of depression share some common characteristics, such as the symptoms causing significant discomfort or functional impairment in important everyday contexts.

Emotional Symptoms of Depression

People with depression often experience a persistent low mood, marked by daily sadness and negative thoughts. They may no longer derive pleasure or joy from activities they once enjoyed. Other emotional symptoms may include feelings of anguish, emptiness, guilt, desperation, loss of interest, loss of hope, and irritability.

Cognitive Symptoms of Depression

Depression can also affect cognitive functions. Individuals may have trouble concentrating, making decisions, and may experience memory problems. They may also have slowed thought processes and a tendency to devalue themselves and blame themselves for their situation.

Behavioral and Physical Symptoms of Depression

Depression can also manifest in behavioral changes such as motor slowdown, agitation, changes in appetite, sleep disorders, social withdrawal, and decreased productivity. Physical symptoms can include muscle, joint, and abdominal pain, palpitations, nausea, gastric disorders, headache, and loss of energy.

Other Associated Conditions

Depression can co-occur with other conditions such as decreased libido, anger, low self-esteem, frustration, recurrent thoughts of suicide or self-harm, recurrent thoughts of death, and states of anxiety. In cases of bipolar disorders, manic or hypomanic episodes may also occur.

Treatments for Depression


Psychotherapy is a powerful tool in the fight against depression. Two particularly effective approaches are cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and interpersonal therapy.

Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy aims to help patients identify and manage negative perceptions and feelings. It equips them with tools to find new perspectives, solve their problems, and manage distressing situations. The therapist encourages patients to engage in rewarding and enjoyable activities.

Interpersonal therapy, on the other hand, posits that psychiatric symptoms develop in an interpersonal context. By addressing this context, symptom improvement and relapse prevention can be achieved. The goal is to enhance the patient's social functionality by resolving ongoing relational crises.

The choice of psychotherapeutic approach is determined by the specialist based on the patient's specific needs. Psychotherapy can also be used in conjunction with pharmacological treatment.

Pharmacological Treatment

Pharmacological treatment, involving the use of antidepressant drugs, may be necessary in some cases. These drugs fall into several classes, including:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Norepinephrine and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (NSRIs)
  • Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (NaRIs)
  • Serotonin transmission modulators (SARI)
  • Modulators of noradrenergic and serotonergic transmission (NaSSA)
  • Dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (DNRIs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Medicinal Plants and Supplements

Several medicinal plants and supplements have been found to have potential benefits in managing depression symptoms.

  • Eleutherococcus: Also known as Siberian ginseng, Eleutherococcus is believed to help combat fatigue and stress, both common symptoms of depression.
  • Oats: Oats are rich in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that aids in the production of serotonin, often referred to as the "feel-good" hormone.
  • St. John's Wort: This herb has been widely used for centuries to treat mental health conditions, including depression. It is believed to work similarly to standard antidepressants.
  • Valerian: Valerian is widely known for its calming effects and is often used to treat insomnia, a common symptom of depression.
  • Passion Flower: This plant is believed to have calming and sleep-inducing effects.
  • Chamomile: Known for its soothing properties, chamomile is often used to manage anxiety and promote sleep.
  • Linden, Peppermint, Hawthorn, Elderberry, Mistletoe, and Hops: These plants have been traditionally used for their calming and sedative properties.

While these plants and supplements may offer relief, it's important to remember that they are not a cure for depression. They should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes professional medical advice and therapy.

Seeking Help

Recognizing the need for help and seeking it is crucial in managing depression. It is essential to reach out to healthcare providers, family, friends, or trusted individuals at the earliest stages of the disorder to ensure early diagnosis and timely intervention. However, it's important to acknowledge that individuals experiencing depressive symptoms may often hesitate to seek help due to fear of judgment, shame, or denial of the illness.

Prevention is particularly important for individuals with a family history of depression, a positive clinical history, or those who have experienced particularly traumatic negative events. Regular lifestyle, balanced diet, physical activity, avoiding psychotropic substances, and consulting a specialist are all essential components of prevention.

In conclusion, depression is a complex and multifaceted mental health condition that requires comprehensive understanding and appropriate management. Timely intervention and appropriate treatment can significantly improve the quality of life of individuals living with depression.

Article Disclaimer
The Wellyme Team

We understand the importance of reliable information, and our goal is to provide you with knowledge that empowers and informs your wellness journey.