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Key Definitions

The following are definitions associated with mental health care. Information sources include the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

What is Depression

Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When one has depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both the sufferer and those who care about him/her. Depression is a common but serious illness.

Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.

Just like with any mental health condition, people with depression or who are going through a depressive episode (also known as major or clinical depression) experience symptoms differently. But for most people, depression changes how they function day-to-day. Symptoms my include:

  • Changes in sleep. Many people have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or will sleep much longer than usual. Waking up early in the morning is common for people with major depression.
  • Changes in appetite. Depression can lead to serious weight loss or gain when a person stops eating or uses food as a coping mechanism.
  • Lack of concentration. A person may be unable to focus during severe depression. Even reading the newspaper or following the plot of a TV show may be difficult. It becomes harder to make decisions, big or small.
  • Loss of energy. People with depression may feel profound fatigue, think slowly or be unable to perform normal daily routines.
  • Lack of interest. People may lose interest in their usual activities or lose the capacity to experience pleasure. A person may have no desire to eat or have sex.
  • Low self-esteem. During periods of depression, people dwell on losses or failures and feel excessive guilt and helplessness. Thoughts like “I am a loser” or “the world is a terrible place” or “I don’t want to be alive” can take over.
  • Feelings of hopelessness. Depression can make a person feel that nothing good will ever happen. Suicidal thoughts often follow these kinds of negative thoughts and need to be taken seriously.
  • Changes in movement. People with depression may look physically depleted or they may be agitated. For example, a person may wake early in the morning and pace the floor for hours.
  • Physical aches and pains. Instead of talking about their emotions or sadness, some people may complain about a headache or an upset stomach.

Learn more at: http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression/Overview

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