What is Depression? | Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

What is Depression?

Depression might best be explained by comparing it to hypothermia. In hypothermia the body, due to exposure to cold, gets so cold (that is the temperature gets depressed) that it can’t warm itself up or maintain a homeostasis of temperature. A body in the state of hypothermia will continue to get colder until death, unless outside heat is introduced.

Clinical depression is a prolonged state of depleted or “depressed” brain chemistry resulting from a prolonged exposure to stress hormones. Stress hormones are toxic to the body and deplete the brains supply of feel good and think clear neurotransmitters (like serotonin and dopamine). If depressing circumstances persist for long enough the brain chemistry gets so suppressed that it is not readily able to bounce back or maintain homeostasis (balance).

Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety often go hand and hand. The reason being is that anxiety can actually lead to depression. And, depression intensifies anxiety. Anxiety (i.e. stress) hormones, like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, are toxic to the body and contribute to the depressing (read: lowering or depleting) of the bodies feel good and think clear neurotransmitters.
The more depressed a person becomes, the harder it is for them to function. The more you struggle to function / perform at a normal level and feel like your failing, the higher your anxiety is. It’s a viscous cycle.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression shows up differently in men versus women, but in either case it’s awful.

It’s characterized by feelings of sadness or discouragement and a loss of interest in daily activities that persist for more than two weeks. It represents a change from normal for a person. It gets in the way of functioning socially, at your job or school. We’re not talking about the normal ups and downs of life. These are feelings that are present nearly every day for a long time.

Here’s what it looks like in different arenas of life:

Family Relationships

  • Moderate: Quiet, negative and oppositional
  • Severe: Withdrawn, won’t talk, brusque, angry, aggressive

School & Academics / Work

  • Moderate: Grades/work performance deteriorating, missing/cutting class or work, decreased effort, moderate academic or work stress
  • Severe: Failing performance, missing school or work, doesn’t care about work, oppositional, argumentative, high academic or work stress

Peer Relationships

  • Moderate: Decreased socializing or extracurricular activities, more time on computer
  • Severe: Isolated, discontinued extracurricular activities, excessive computer time

Stress Level, Anxiety

  • Moderate: Minimizes or denies issues, projects onto others or blames others
  • Severe: Withholds feelings, won’t talk

Suicidal Ideation

  • Moderate: Vague / occasional
  • Severe: Frequently considered, has a plan, or prior attempt

Self Harm

  • Moderate: Occasional thoughts but no attempts
  • Severe: Cutting, other self-injury


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