Learn More About Depression

What is depression?

Depression is a serious mental health disorder that affects the whole body including mood and thoughts. It touches every part of one’s life.

It is important to know that depression is not a weakness or character flaw—it is a chemical imbalance in the brain that needs to be treated.

If you have one episode of depression, you are at risk of having more throughout life. Without treatment, depression can happen more often and become more serious.

Scientists believe that depression doesn’t have a singular cause, but may be brought on by a traumatic event, changes in life circumstances, genetics, changes in the brain, or alcohol or drug addiction.

Older man talks with clinician outside
Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 355 million people

Anyone can feel sad or depressed at times. However, depression is more intense and harder to manage than normal feelings of sadness. A person may have different symptoms of depression including:

  • Ongoing sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling inadequate or worthless
  • Excessive guilt
  • Repeating thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide (Note: people with these symptoms should get help right away)
  • Loss of interest in usual activities or activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Relationship problems
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Decreased energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • A decrease in the ability to make decisions

Left untreated, depression can be a debilitating illness for individuals and their families. Often, symptoms are not recognized for their severity and can worsen, and severe depression may lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

Common treatments for depression include individual and group therapy, and medications as appropriate.

Other treatments may include TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), or ketamine, which have been found to have profound effects on individuals with depression, especially for those who have not found relief in symptoms through other treatment methods.

Many factors contribute to depression, and it is likely caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. Life events (such as stressful life changes) may also contribute to a depressed mood. Depression also tends to run in families. The exact biological cause of depression is still being investigated, including by scientists at McLean like Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD.

About Suicide

Suicidal behavior is defined as a preoccupation or act that is focused on causing one’s own death voluntarily.

  • Suicidal ideation refers to thoughts of suicide or wanting to take one’s own life
  • Suicidal behavior refers to actions taken by one who is considering or preparing to cause his or her own death
  • Suicide attempt usually refers to an act focused on causing one’s own death that is unsuccessful in causing death
  • Suicide refers to having intentionally caused one’s own death

Talking about suicide is the best way to prevent it. Although it is not possible to predict suicide with any certainty, our best tool is recognition of the signs that many people exhibit when contemplating suicide.

These three behaviors should prompt you to seek immediate help for you or a loved one:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

If You or Someone You Know Needs Help

McLean: A Leader in Depression Treatment

Let us help you or a loved one. Call us today at 877.646.5272 and we’ll help you find the treatment option that’s right for you.


Want More Info?

Looking for even more information about depression? You may find these resources helpful.

Interesting Articles, Videos, and More

Learn more about mood disorders and what you can do if you or a loved one is displaying signs of depression.

Helpful Links

These organizations may also have useful information on depression and suicide prevention:

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is the top non-governmental funder of mental health research grants in the United States. By funding research in neuroscience and psychiatry focused on the causes and treatment of psychiatric and mental illnesses, they aim to alleviate the suffering of those impacted by mental illness.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
A nonprofit organization providing support groups for people with depression or bipolar disorder, as well as their friends and family. DBSA offers education, personal wellness tools, access to research studies, and assistance with finding the right treatment.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Boston
A nonprofit, self-help support organization run by volunteers, for people who struggle with mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, and for family and friends.

Families for Depression Awareness
This organization offers information and tools to help families recognize and cope with depression and bipolar disorder in order to get people well and prevent suicides.

National Network of Depression Centers
An organization that uses the power of their network of depression centers to make advancements in the areas of clinical care, research, education, and policy. They aim to advance scientific discovery and provide stigma free, evidence-based care to patients with mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder.

Suicide Prevention

These organizations also offer information on suicide prevention:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
This organization is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you are suicidal, please call 800.273.TALK(8255). You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Samaritans: Massachusetts
A nondenominational, not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the incidence of suicide by befriending individuals in crisis and educating the community about effective prevention strategies. Call or text the 24/7 free and confidential helpline at 877.870.4673.

Stop A Suicide Today!
A nationwide campaign by Screening for Mental Health, Inc., to empower individuals to help themselves, colleagues, friends, and loved ones who are concerned about or feel suicidal.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center
The only federally supported resource center devoted to advancing the implementation of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

Books About Depression

CBT for Depressed AdolescentsCognitive Behavior Therapy for Depressed Adolescents: A Practical Guide to Management and Treatment
by Randy P. Auerbach, Christian A. Webb, Jeremy G. Stewart
(Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2016)

Biographies of Disease: DepressionBiographies of Disease: Depression
by Blaise Aguirre, MD
(Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008)