Depression Definition

It has been said that we live in the "Age of Anxiety." We also live in a time of depression. According to WHO (World Health Organization), it is a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.


In American society so many people experience depression that it has been called the "common cold of emotional illness." About 5% of the population or 15 million people are depressed at any one time. About one in six people experience a significant depressive episode at some point in life. Depression is a definite problem with the elderly, but the age of onset is dropping and depression is showing up more and more in adolescents.


Normal Emotions

Life is filled a variety of experiences and depending upon life circumstances it is quite appropriate to be feeling any of a number of positive and negative emotions. Such emotional states include excitement, frustration, fear, happiness, anger, sadness, and joy with many more possibilities. All of these emotional states are normal reactions to specific life events. Even when they are experienced as unpleasant, they are normal reactions.


These same emotions, however, can intensify into abnormal states if they become an overreaction to the circumstances. For example, if a store clerk is rude, you may respond with normal irritation and complain to the manager. If your irritation quickly escalates to anger and rage then you may create such a scene that you are now the rude and obnoxious person.


Sadder than Sad?

In a similar manner experiencing a loss may make you sad, but if the sadness becomes out of proportion to the event then you fall into depression. Sadness is normal, but depression is not. Depression is when you become sadder than sad.


Depression differs from sadness in its intensity, frequency, and duration.

  • Intensity. While the event would make most people sad, you respond with a much deeper level of sadness. It is too intense. Your sadness moves outside the normal range of response.

  • Frequency. Your sadness may not be out of proportion, but it is recurrent. You seem to get over it, and then it comes back. This repetitive cycle becomes a pattern in your life.

  • Duration. Your sadness comes and it stays and stays. The sadness lasts much longer than it does for most other people in similar circumstances.


Any combination of these factors can result in depression. If it does then you have become "sadder than sad."






Watch your langauge!

Be careful how you describe your feelings. You may talk yourself into more trouble than you need. We often use the words sad and depressed as if they were the interchangeable. They are not.
Suppose that your favorite sports team loses. You might tell a friend that you are feeling "really depressed." Would this be an accurate statement? No. You might be irritated, frustrated, or sad but not depressed.


A potential problem with such use of language is that you might talk yourself into being depressed. You might intensify your mood by your language. Say you are depressed often enough and it might become your reality.



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