Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Key Characteristics of Depression

Main characteristics of depression as follows:

Emotions

The emotional aspect of depression often presents with the person reporting (or being observed having), depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day. This is often characterized by expressions of sadness, despair and tearfulness.

Cognitions

Associated with the above emotions, depressed people will often experience and describe thoughts of a negative nature. People often report having negative thoughts about themselves that frequently refer to a sense of guilt, unworthiness, disappointment, hopelessness and helplessness. For example, ‘There is no point to life any more, I am no longer needed.’ These thoughts can be so extreme that they can be accompanied by further thoughts relating to suicide, ‘My family would be better off without me.’ Many people also report lower levels of concentration and attention that can lead to impaired judgement.

Behaviour

Coexisting with the above thoughts, people frequently describe changes in their everyday behaviour. People will often report having a loss of interest and pleasure in everyday and social activities. People frequently start to spend more time on their own, withdraw from social activity and can have diminished interest in sexual activity. People often state that these changes are due to a lack of interest, energy or ability to concentrate. However, in some cases where there is coexisting agitation, there may be increased activity in the form of restlessness, pacing and an inability to relax.

Physical experiences

From a physical perspective, people often report having disturbed sleep which can include waking in the night, difficulty getting off to sleep or early morning rising. As a consequence, people frequently experience irritability and excessive fatigue. Many people also report having a diminished appetite stating that they are not hungry or can no longer make the effort to prepare meals. Prolonged disturbance of eating can result in weight loss and loss of energy.

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