What is Depression?

Depression is a mental disorder that brings feelings of deep sadness and hopelessness. It results in a loss of interest in normal daily activities and life. Many sufferers describe what depression feels like as a constant sadness that they carry with them all the time. It's normal to go through sad times in life, but it's time to talk to your healthcare provider when they begin to interrupt your daily life. 

Pathophysiology and Risk Factors

This mood disorder results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. This can be due to many things and can develop at any point in your life. Children, teens, and adults can suffer from this condition, and it is equally serious in all age groups.

Periods of high stress such as long-term unemployment, death, financial problems, or relationship issues can trigger depression. Other risk factors are a family history of mood disorders, certain medications, severe or chronic illness, and substance abuse. 

This condition can occur in combination with several other health issues like mixed anxiety depressive disorder, pain disorders, and social phobias. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression often coexist.

Types of Depression

All depression includes feelings of sadness and hopelessness. However, there are many types of this disorder, including:

  • Clinical or Major Depressive Disorder - This disease leads to changes in appetite, sleep, and mood. It also often includes feelings of unbearable hopelessness, fatigue, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder - This is a chronic condition that varies from mild to severe. The symptoms are not as intense as clinical or major depressive disorder. Still, they can be very long-lasting and decrease quality of life.
  • Bipolar Disorder- This causes shifts in mood and cyclical depression, resulting in an episode of mania followed by depressive episodes. It is not uncommon for sufferers to have unexplained physical symptoms like aches and pains. This mood disorder often leaves you feeling hopeless and lethargic.
  • Postpartum Depression- Pregnancy and birth lead to significant life changes, and it isn't uncommon for this condition to develop as a result. Fluctuating mood, anxiety, irritability, and trouble bonding with your baby can be signs of this disorder.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - This condition affects many people. It leads to depressive feelings, potential weight gain, and loss of interest in everyday life during dreary weather periods. 


This mood disorder almost always includes extended periods of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of  interest in daily activities. These feelings can last from two weeks to four months. Other depression symptoms include:

  • Unexplained irritability
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or despair
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Change in sleep pattern
  • Change in appetite 
  • Lack of energy and tiredness
  • Frequent or reoccurring thoughts of death and suicide
  • Foggy cognition or a lack of focus
  • Unexplained and prolonged feelings of sadness

This mood disorder can make it very difficult to carry out simple daily tasks such as brushing your teeth or making a meal. Sometimes a low mood can occur in isolation and resolve over a short period. In other cases, patients suffer from a long term depression cycle. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to moderate depression to crippling depression.


Getting diagnosed can take some time. The symptoms can be nonspecific and similar to other conditions, and misdiagnosis is quite common. In some situations, your feelings may resolve on their own, but they often require medical intervention. 

There are many online tests and tools to screen for this disorder, but a formal diagnosis requires seeing a physician. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about your health history and the symptoms you're experiencing. They will also do a physical exam to rule out other causes and may order blood work.

Depending on your symptoms and their severity, your healthcare provider may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further evaluation. Once diagnosed, a treatment plan for depression usually starts immediately.


Living a Healthy Lifestyle

You should seek medical care if you believe you are suffering from a depressive disorder. However, there are a few things you can do at home to help. Trying to exercise regularly, eating a balanced diet, taking time for self-care, and practicing mindfulness can lift your mood. 

Medical Treatment

There are many treatment options. Usually, first-line therapy involves an antidepressant that will increase the serotonin or norepinephrine levels in your brain. Research indicates people with this disease may have less of these neurotransmitters than normal, so increasing their levels can improve mood. 

Most antidepressants take 4-6 weeks to reach peak effectiveness. You may need to try more than one before you find the best medication for your needs. In addition, anti-anxiety, antipsychotics, ADHD medications, and mood stabilizers for depression can be added to an antidepressant regimen if needed. 

Psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or group therapy is helpful in almost all cases. It is usually recommended in addition to medication. In moderately severe depression, patients can receive intensive, inpatient depression treatment at depression treatment centers until symptoms resolve.



People living with this mood disorder are often able to lead whole, happy lives with appropriate treatment. How long your treatment will last depends on your symptoms and mental health history. Some patients experience one or more depression relapses throughout their lives. 

Early recognition of symptoms is critical as this disorder can have serious consequences like thoughts of suicide, self-harm, and hopelessness if left untreated. If you suffer from a depressive disorder, seek medical advice and let one of our online doctors help now.

Our board certified doctors can treat a wide variety of medical conditions through SkyMD®. Common conditions that can be diagnosed and treated through our online platform include but are not limited to:

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