Volume 1, Issue 1
Mental Health News
Depression: What It Is
What To Do About It (Part I)
Atasha M. Murray, MSW
This is the first of a two-part series on
depression. In this issue, I will explore what
depression is and what causes it. In the next issue,
I will describe how depression is treated and
prevented. If you or someone close to you suffers
from depression, it is important to educate yourself
about it and seek treatment from qualified mental
Depression is a serious illness, not a harmless part
of life. It is a complex disorder with a variety of
causes. It is never caused by just one thing. It may
be the result of a mix of factors, including
genetic, chemical, physical, and sociological. It is
also influenced by behavior patterns learned in the
family and by cognitive distortions.
Depression affects millions of people in this
country. It is always troubling, and for some people
it can be disabling. Depression is more than just
sadness or “the blues.” It can have an impact on
nearly every aspect of a person’s life. People who
suffer from depression may experience despair and
worthlessness, and this can have an enormous impact
on both personal and professional relationships. In
this newsletter, I will describe many of the factors
that may cause depression, and I will explore
strategies for preventing it.
Depression Is Pervasive
When a person suffers from depression, it
can affect every part of his or her life, including
one’s physical body, one’s behavior, thought
processes, mood, ability to relate to others, and
Symptoms of Depression
People who are diagnosed with clinical
depression have a combination of symptoms from the
Feelings of hopelessness, even when
reason to be hopeful.
Fatigue or low energy.
less interest or pleasure in most
Excessive or inappropriate guilt.
Lessened ability to think or
Thinking distorted thoughts; having
view of life.
Weight loss or gain without dieting.
Change in appetite.
Change in sleeping patterns.
Recurrent thoughts of death.
specific plan for committing
Feelings of restlessness or being
person is suffering from depression, these symptoms
cause significant distress or impairment in social,
occupational, or other important areas of
functioning. This means that the person’s family and
social relationships, as well as work life, are
When a person is suffering from depression, symptoms
such as these are not the result of a chronic
psychotic disorder, substance abuse, general medical
condition, or bereavement.
Grief, Sadness, and Depression
Depression may include feelings of sadness,
but it is not the same as sadness. Depression lasts much
longer than sadness. While depression involves a loss of
self-esteem, grief, disappointment and sadness do not.
People who are depressed function less productively. People
who are sad or disappointed continue to function.
Depression and Socioeconomic Factors
Depression does not seem to be related to
ethnicity, education, income, or marital status. It strikes
slightly more women than men. Some researchers believe that
depression strikes more often in women who have a history of
emotional and sexual abuse, economic deprivation, or are
dependent on others. There seems to be a genetic link;
depression is more common among parents, children, and
siblings of people who are diagnosed with depression. The
average age at the onset of a depressive episode is the
mid-20s. People born more recently are being diagnosed at a
Professional Treatment Is Needed
If you or someone you know is depressed and exhibits any of
the following signs, it is extremely important to seek the
assistance of a medical or mental health professional.
about death or suicide. This is always dangerous and you
should see a professional therapist immediately.
symptoms of depression continue for a long time, you may
need professional help. Acute responses to events are
normal, but they should not last beyond a reasonable
ability to function is impaired by your depression. Seek
help before your life situation deteriorates to a
- You have
become so isolated that you have no one with whom to
check reality. Seek out someone to share your thoughts
and feelings with.
Depressive symptoms have become severe.
In my next
newsletter, I will discuss the treatment and prevention of
David D. Burns, M.D., Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
New York, Avon Books, 1980.
The American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual, 4th Edition. Washington, D.C., The
American Psychiatric Association, 1994.
Michael Yapko, Ph.D., Breaking the Patterns of Depression.
New York, Doubleday, 1997.
Atasha M. Murray, MSW is the founder and executive
director of Life Evolutions Behavioral Healthcare, LLC.