15 Things You Didn't Know About Clinical Depression

How can something that affects huge numbers of us be so widely misunderstood? You’d be amazed what people don’t know about depression.

RELATED: 20 Things Nobody Tells You About The Psych Hospital

Michael Peckerar is a Content Associate for Rant Inc. “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @michaelpeckerar, Instagram @michaelpeckerar, or add him to your network on Google.

15. It's A Real Medical Condition With An Actual Diagnosis

It's A Real Medical Condition With An Actual Diagnosis Getty Images
Depression is a medical condition that involves chemical imbalances in the brain. Diagnosing it isn't particularly difficult, as the symptoms are pretty easy to recognize and are self-reported by the patient. There's no lab test, and because of the behavioral symptoms, it's not needed. Patients with depression are not making it up, and definitely not doing it for attention. Doctors with medical degrees who are not you, have done decades of research on this. Trust them... it's a thing.

Depression is a medical condition that involves chemical imbalances in the brain. Diagnosing it isn't particularly difficult, as the symptoms are pretty easy to recognize and are self-reported by the patient. There's no lab test, and because of the behavioral symptoms, it's not needed. Patients with depression are not making it up, and definitely not doing it for attention. Doctors with medical degrees who are not you, have done decades of research on this. Trust them... it's a thing.

14. Medication Works But Is Only Part Of The Treatment

Medication Works But Is Only Part Of The Treatment Getty Images
The best treatment for depression involves certain types of medication like Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants. But that's only part of the treatment. Patients with depression have to take their meds, but also do to therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/or interpersonal therapy is key to treating depression. Popping a pill and feeling all better is not in any way how it works. The combination works, but it requires both components.

The best treatment for depression involves certain types of medication like Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants. But that's only part of the treatment. Patients with depression have to take their meds, but also do to therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/or interpersonal therapy is key to treating depression. Popping a pill and feeling all better is not in any way how it works. The combination works, but it requires both components.

13. It Shortens Life Expectancy

It Shortens Life Expectancy Getty Images
The shortened life expectancy in people with depression is partially due to the heightened risk of suicide. Overall, the lifetime risk for suicide in depression patients is 3.4%, with a higher risk in males than females. Researchers have also found that depression raises the risk for other medical issues, and one such study in the Journal Of Cardiovascular Medicine showed a particular raise in the risk for heart disease.

The shortened life expectancy in people with depression is partially due to the heightened risk of suicide. Overall, the lifetime risk for suicide in depression patients is 3.4%, with a higher risk in males than females. Researchers have also found that depression raises the risk for other medical issues, and one such study in the Journal Of Cardiovascular Medicine showed a particular raise in the risk for heart disease.

12. The Symptoms Are Physical As Well

The Symptoms Are Physical As Well Getty Images
Decreased energy levels, loss of appetite, and disrupted sleep patterns are extremely common in people with depression. Many patients have also reported digestive issues, chronic pain, headaches, and cardiovascular issues. It's not fully understood how depression causes these symptoms, however they are generally treatable alongside the psychological components.

Decreased energy levels, loss of appetite, and disrupted sleep patterns are extremely common in people with depression. Many patients have also reported digestive issues, chronic pain, headaches, and cardiovascular issues. It's not fully understood how depression causes these symptoms, however they are generally treatable alongside the psychological components.

11. The Symptoms Are Slightly Different In Children

The Symptoms Are Slightly Different In Children Getty Images
Depression can, and often does, show up in children. Because the child's brain is different from an adults' (see: pre-pubescence) the signs are different. Kids with depression will appear more irritable than depressed, and will often seem more dependent and needy than their peers. They lose interest in school and will often show signs of severe insecurity. These signs are often ignored and the child gets labeled "a behavioral problem" in school.

Depression can, and often does, show up in children. Because the child's brain is different from an adults' (see: pre-pubescence) the signs are different. Kids with depression will appear more irritable than depressed, and will often seem more dependent and needy than their peers. They lose interest in school and will often show signs of severe insecurity. These signs are often ignored and the child gets labeled "a behavioral problem" in school.

10. You Very Likely Know Someone Who Is Affected

You Very Likely Know Someone Who Is Affected Getty Images
The National Institute For Mental Health reported that in 2013, 15.7 million American adults were diagnosed with some form of depression. That represents 6.7% of the adult population. The chances that you know someone who lives with depression or is related to someone with it -- are very high. Estimates are that many more people live with depression and are undiagnosed, due to social stigmas.

The National Institute For Mental Health reported that in 2013, 15.7 million American adults were diagnosed with some form of depression. That represents 6.7% of the adult population. The chances that you know someone who lives with depression or is related to someone with it -- are very high. Estimates are that many more people live with depression and are undiagnosed, due to social stigmas.

9. You Cannot Treat Your Friend Or Loved One's Depression Yourself (Unless You're A Medical Professional)

You Cannot Treat Your Friend Or Loved One's Depression Yourself (Unless You're A Medical Professional) Getty Images

If you're a doctor or psychologist, ignore this part.

You are not going to treat your friend's depression by taking them fishing, telling them to "snap out of it", or reminding them that "other people have problems too." That's not how it works. You don't tell someone with diabetes that if they just smile more, they'll whip that pancreas into shape in no time. Your friend with depression will get better by doing two things and two things only: taking their meds and going to therapy. That's it. You're not going to Ferris Bueller them into getting better. You're not a doctor.

If you're a doctor or psychologist, ignore this part.

You are not going to treat your friend's depression by taking them fishing, telling them to "snap out of it", or reminding them that "other people have problems too." That's not how it works. You don't tell someone with diabetes that if they just smile more, they'll whip that pancreas into shape in no time. Your friend with depression will get better by doing two things and two things only: taking their meds and going to therapy. That's it. You're not going to Ferris Bueller them into getting better. You're not a doctor.

8. Self Medication Happens And Is A Spectacularly Bad Idea

Self Medication Happens And Is A Spectacularly Bad Idea Getty Images
A lot of patients will turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of escape. When they're under the influence, they don't feel the symptoms of depression and the addiction cycle begins. This is a horrible idea and usually ends very badly. When a patient self-medicates, it makes the doctor and psychologist's job infinitely harder since they're now treating two conditions. Unfortunately, this happens in a lot of cases and is part of the condition.

A lot of patients will turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of escape. When they're under the influence, they don't feel the symptoms of depression and the addiction cycle begins. This is a horrible idea and usually ends very badly. When a patient self-medicates, it makes the doctor and psychologist's job infinitely harder since they're now treating two conditions. Unfortunately, this happens in a lot of cases and is part of the condition.

7. We May Never Fully Understand What Causes It

We May Never Fully Understand What Causes It Getty Images
If you ask what causes depression, you'll get a lot of answers from a lot of doctors. All, some, or none of the answers might be right. Some say it's strictly a biological thing, some have said it's entirely emotional, and some have said both. Some research points to environmental causes, some say genetics, and there's even a few that say head trauma can cause it. It's possible for researchers to figure it all out, but odds are they won't.

If you ask what causes depression, you'll get a lot of answers from a lot of doctors. All, some, or none of the answers might be right. Some say it's strictly a biological thing, some have said it's entirely emotional, and some have said both. Some research points to environmental causes, some say genetics, and there's even a few that say head trauma can cause it. It's possible for researchers to figure it all out, but odds are they won't.

6. Alternative Treatments Help But Are Not A Replacement

Alternative Treatments Help But Are Not A Replacement Getty Images
When someone is diagnosed with a heart condition, you're not going to tell them to eat less meat and meditate. Depression, like other mental illnesses, is a medical condition and must be treated as such. However, when used in conjunction with medical treatment, things like exercise, mindfulness, and diet have been overwhelmingly successful. For long term success, nothing beats a whole-life approach.

When someone is diagnosed with a heart condition, you're not going to tell them to eat less meat and meditate. Depression, like other mental illnesses, is a medical condition and must be treated as such. However, when used in conjunction with medical treatment, things like exercise, mindfulness, and diet have been overwhelmingly successful. For long term success, nothing beats a whole-life approach.

5. It Took Until 1980 For The APA To Recognize Depression As A Thing

It Took Until 1980 For The APA To Recognize Depression As A Thing Getty Images
The American Psychiatric Association hadn't included Depression as an actual diagnosis until the 1980 edition of the DSM. While doctors had been recognizing depression as a legitimate condition, there was no official diagnosis for it. Incidentally, the same edition had still classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, calling it "ego-dystonic homosexuality."

The American Psychiatric Association hadn't included Depression as an actual diagnosis until the 1980 edition of the DSM. While doctors had been recognizing depression as a legitimate condition, there was no official diagnosis for it. Incidentally, the same edition had still classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, calling it "ego-dystonic homosexuality."

4. Quitting Smoking Boosts The Effectiveness Of Treatment

Quitting Smoking Boosts The Effectiveness Of Treatment Getty Images
Since smoking cigarettes has been shown to create heightened levels of certain neurotransmitters that control anxiety and mood, many psychiatrists suggest their patients quit smoking. Quitting smoking is a good thing to do anyway, but many patients have seen effects equal to or greater than antidepressants alone. It is not, however, a replacement for taking your meds.

Since smoking cigarettes has been shown to create heightened levels of certain neurotransmitters that control anxiety and mood, many psychiatrists suggest their patients quit smoking. Quitting smoking is a good thing to do anyway, but many patients have seen effects equal to or greater than antidepressants alone. It is not, however, a replacement for taking your meds.

3. Patients Should Never, Ever, Ever, For Any Reason, Ever Go Off Their Meds

Patients Should Never, Ever, Ever, For Any Reason, Ever Go Off Their Meds Getty Images
No matter what you see in the movies, on TV, read on Facebook, or hear from new-age types -- patients should never go off their meds. Especially cold turkey. Depression is a medical condition, and requires treatment. It's not a scam by "Big Pharma" or anything you read on Reddit. Immediately going off your meds can send your brain into all kinds of shock, and the withdrawal is intense. Many patients say "I feel fine! I'm cured!" and stop taking their meds immediately. The meds are what did that and are what will keep you that way.

No matter what you see in the movies, on TV, read on Facebook, or hear from new-age types -- patients should never go off their meds. Especially cold turkey. Depression is a medical condition, and requires treatment. It's not a scam by "Big Pharma" or anything you read on Reddit. Immediately going off your meds can send your brain into all kinds of shock, and the withdrawal is intense. Many patients say "I feel fine! I'm cured!" and stop taking their meds immediately. The meds are what did that and are what will keep you that way.

2. The Symptoms Can Come And Go In Some Patients

The Symptoms Can Come And Go In Some Patients Getty Images
Depression and Bipolar Disorder are sometimes confused for one another when a patient is first treated. In some cases, the symptoms of depression can go away and then return, prompting a misdiagnosis or even an abandonment of treatment. Where a Bipolar patient would cycle into hypomanic or manic episodes, a patient with depression could return to "normal" only to experience another depressive episode down the line. Nobody said psychiatry was easy.

Depression and Bipolar Disorder are sometimes confused for one another when a patient is first treated. In some cases, the symptoms of depression can go away and then return, prompting a misdiagnosis or even an abandonment of treatment. Where a Bipolar patient would cycle into hypomanic or manic episodes, a patient with depression could return to "normal" only to experience another depressive episode down the line. Nobody said psychiatry was easy.

1. The Most Severe Cases Can Be Treated With Magnets

The Most Severe Cases Can Be Treated With Magnets Pinterest
For a long time, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) was used in severe, treatment resistant cases of major depressive disorder. Now, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is coming into the picture as a noninvasive method of treating the most severe cases of depression. Approved by the FDA in 2008, the technique involves a magnetic field that creates an electrical field deep in the brain, stimulating certain areas. The side effects are minimal, and the results have been positive. It's even covered by most insurance plans.

For a long time, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) was used in severe, treatment resistant cases of major depressive disorder. Now, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is coming into the picture as a noninvasive method of treating the most severe cases of depression. Approved by the FDA in 2008, the technique involves a magnetic field that creates an electrical field deep in the brain, stimulating certain areas. The side effects are minimal, and the results have been positive. It's even covered by most insurance plans.

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