Categorized | Depression

Depression Definition – It’s Time to Get a Grip on the Definition

Depression Definition

According to the dictionary, depression can be defined as 1. Feelings of severe despondency and dejection.  That’s a pretty vague depression definition, isn’t it? Seriously, with something THIS big, we need to develop a clear understanding of exactly what it is.

Depression is such a common issue that any definition you find will be relatively similar. These are the current DSM criteria for a major depressive episode. You need to have five or more of these symptoms that occur during the same two-week period and represent a change from previous functioning. At least one of your symptoms has to be depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure:

  • Depressed mood for most of the day, nearly every day. In children or adolescents, this can look more like irritable mood.
  • Lowered interest or pleasure in nearly all activities for most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain (change in 5% of body weight in a month) when you haven’t been intentionally changing your diet or a decrease in appetite, nearly every day.
  • Insomnia (not sleeping enough) or hypersomnia (sleeping way too much), nearly every day.
  • Either speeding (agitation) up or slowing (retardation) down of your activities, as noticed by other people.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy, nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or over-the-top guilt, nearly every day.
  • Trouble with thinking or concentrating, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal thoughts without a particular plan, a suicide attempt, or a specific plan for committing suicide.


For your experience to qualify as a major depressive episode, these symptoms need to be disrupting some important area of functioning such as your ability to operate socially or work effectively at school or your job. These symptoms also can’t be due to the effects of drugs, medicine, or a medical condition. Certain medications can have a depressant effect, which is definitely a valid experience, but it is considered to be separate from a major depressive episode.

What’s with this phrase “depressive episode?” A huge number of people have a major depressive episode at some point in their lives. This is at least a two week period in which you meet those criteria that we just talked about. A smaller, but still way too large number of people experience major depressive disorder, which means that they have a pattern of recurrent depressive episodes across a portion of their lifetime. You can think of it as being similar to an eating disorder. You can have an episode of starving yourself, but that does not necessarily make you meet criteria for anorexia. It is the recurrent behavior over time that qualifies it as a psychological disorder.

Depression Isn’t the Same for Everyone

We would like to talk a bit about the fact that depression is not the same for every individual. It is difficult to stick to the books and convey what we are trying to say about this, so please forgive us if we draw a bit more from personal experience than research here. One of the things that persistently upsets depressed people is when they meet a mental health professional who instantly groups them into a very specific category in their mind.

Stereotypical Versions of Depression

Perhaps one of the more stereotypical versions of depression is what we like to call the “sorrowful” subtype. This one looks a lot like active grief. The way we can typically identify someone in this mode is by asking whether they find themselves crying at literally everything. The wrong commercial comes on, you hear a song that makes you feel all the feels, the wind changes… you hardly need an excuse to shed some tears. It’s like you’re on the verge of breaking down 24/7. This version of depression really sucks because it’s not exactly the type that you can hide easily. Not so awesome when you are trying to hold it together at work. You’re just so sad that it almost literally aches in your heart. Often times, people start out with this type of depression and take it from there.


When you first start to feel the stings of depression and start to question yourself and everything around you, it can be a really painful sting. If you feel depressed, it is important that you seek help before you sink deeper.

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