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What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder that affects your mood and ability to function normally. It can disrupt your life and negatively affect your personal relationships, career, and more. Severe cases can be considered disabling. If left untreated, depression may lead to thoughts of suicide and death.

Depressive Episodes

A depressive episode is when you experience symptoms of depression for at least two weeks. Without treatment, major depressive episodes can last weeks, months, and sometimes years. Some people will have only one episode. However, after one episode, the risk for a repeat episode increases.

Why Choose Huntsman Mental Health Institute?

At University of Utah Health, HMHI offers a full continuum of care for those suffering from depression. We provide mental health care through our clinics, outpatient/day treatment, and inpatient hospitalization. As an academic center, we focus on evidence-based treatment. HMHI is one of the only centers in the region that offers advanced depression treatments at our Treatment Resistant Mood Disorders Services clinic.

Depression Symptoms

Symptoms of depression can look different from person to person. Common signs of depression include:  

  • increased irritability,
  • sleeping more or less,
  • worries that turn into intrusive thoughts that won’t leave your mind,
  • becoming more emotional,
  • crying when you wouldn’t usually tear up,
  • changes in appetite,
  • changes in weight,
  • lack of desire to participate in activities you enjoy, and
  • suicidal thoughts.

If these or other symptoms last more than two weeks or significantly interfere with your daily life, it’s time to call your doctor. If immediate safety is an issue, call 988 or the Utah Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) right away. Staff at the Utah Crisis Line help callers determine the best course of action for you or a loved one.

Signs of Depression in Children & Teens

In addition to the sadness and irritability commonly seen in adults, children and teens with depression may:

  • act clingy (in young children),
  • excessive worry,
  • experience physical aches and pains,
  • want to avoid school,
  • be underweight or overweight,
  • have poor grades at school,
  • feel misunderstood or overly sensitive,
  • use drugs,
  • harm themselves, and
  • avoid social interactions.
Young girl is sad and crosses her arms in the hallway at school

Types of Depression

There are many different types of depression. Some types are seasonal or occur in cycles, while others last all the time. It’s important to receive an accurate diagnosis so your provider can treat you appropriately.

  • Major Depressive Disorder — This is the most recognized type of depression, also called clinical depression or major depression. Clinical depression is when you feel sad nearly all the time.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder — Most people with this depressive disorder still function normally, but their level of joy and happiness is much lower than they’d like. This type of depression usually does not reach the severity or intensity of major depression.
  • Manic Depression (now known as bipolar disorder) — This is recognized as a mood disorder that is distinct and separate from depression. Bipolar disorder includes episodes of both depression and mania (hyperactivity) and is treated differently than other types of depression.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — This type of seasonal depression usually occurs in the fall and winter due to shorter days and nights. SAD is often treated with antidepressant medication and therapy, such as light therapy or exposure to a special light that mimics the sun’s rays.
  • Postpartum Depression  This occurs during pregnancy and up to 12 months after delivery. Symptoms sometimes get discounted as the “baby blues,” but postpartum depression can be severe and requires medical treatment.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) — This type of depression affects menstruating women. Symptoms usually begin with ovulation and end with the onset of menstruation. Symptoms include severe mood disruption, anxiety, irritability, and physical symptoms like breast tenderness and bloating.

Causes of Depression

Depression has many causes. It stems from genetic, psychological, and social issues. Even if your life circumstances appear ideal, you may still suffer from depression.

Common risk factors for depression include:

  • Genetics — Depression can run in families and be passed down between generations.
  • Brain chemistry — Some people’s brains have slight differences in certain chemicals that make them more likely to experience symptoms of depression.
  • Personality — If you have low self-esteem or a negative outlook on life in general, you are more likely to have clinical depression.
  • Environmental — Exposure to violence, abuse, or poverty can increase the likelihood of depression. Negative experiences that happened a long time ago can also make you more likely to have depression later in life.

Mental Health Crisis Resources

We are here for you when you need us the most. Our team of professionals are trained in:

  • mental health crisis management,
  • suicide prevention, and
  • emotional wellness.

HMHI provides the following specialty programs and resources for you and your loved ones to prevent mental health crises and provide emotional support when needed.

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