What is depression?

2 min read
Louise halimi

We've all felt sad, depressed, or in a bad mood. But some people experience these emotions more intensely, more frequently, and for long periods of time (several weeks, months, or years). Sometimes for no apparent reason.

Depression is a serious illness that affects physical and mental health. It is not a rare disease, on the contrary, it is quite widespread:

  • It affects approximately 1 in 15 adults in any given year.
  • 1 in 6 people will suffer from depression at some point in their life.

A study by Our World In Data already estimated in 2017 that 3.4% of the world's population suffered from depression. This represents approximately 264 million people worldwide.

But while this condition is common, fortunately, it also has effective treatments.

Depression is a mood disorder that results in a loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities, a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. It generates an almost permanent psychic suffering which upsets daily life. The diagnosis of depression requires a clinical examination carried out by a professional. This examination will assess the level of depression.

Symptoms of depression are felt almost every day and last for at least two weeks. They interfere with all areas of a person's life such as work and social relationships. Depression can be described as mild, moderate or severe, melancholic or psychotic (see below).

Melancholy is a severe form of depression. One of the main signs is that the person begins to move more slowly. She has a depressed mood characterized by a total loss of pleasure in almost everything.

People with a depressive disorder can lose touch with reality and experience psychosis. It can involve hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) or delusions (false beliefs that are not shared by others), such as believing they are being watched. They may also be paranoid, feeling like everyone is against them, or that they are the cause of bad things happening around them. This is called psychotic depression.

During pregnancy or the year after giving birth, a woman is at risk for prenatal and postnatal depression. Depression affects 10% of women during pregnancy and 16% in the first 3 months after childbirth. The causes of depression are often the result of a combination of factors.

The "baby blues" is not a depression, it is a common condition that affects 80% of women in the days following birth. It is linked to hormonal changes. It is an experience that quickly fades. The depression sets in over several weeks. It will affect the mother as well as her family relationships: her relationship with her baby, her partner and with other family members.

Photo by Anthony Tran