Depression is a commonly used word in everyday language and we generally use this word to mean "low mood" or "sadness". In hindi, we would call it उदासी. The usage of this word has become so commonplace that we generally do not think of any synonymous words to describe our low or sad mood. This leads to undermining the seriousness of an illness which is also sometimes loosely referred to as depression. But the illness and the commonly used term do not imply the same thing. There is a psychological disorder called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) which can get very serious and can cause death. Hence we need to understand the difference between the two terms to acknowledge the illness for the severity that it entails.

We all experience a depressed mood in our daily lives due to different reasons like some loss or when we get offended. This leads to a lowering of mood which reduces our interest in activities and motivates us to seek isolation. We ruminate during those times and tend to think excessively over what went wrong and how we could correct it. After some time, in most cases, we occupy ourselves in some other activities and our mood changes gradually. Our emotions become cheerful with occasional bouts of sad memories and thoughts. But we are able to distract ourselves from those sad thoughts within and can suppress them with some effort. As a result, we can proceed with the activity of concern.

But some people, who are clinically depressed, are not able to shift their attention from these ruminating, past-oriented thoughts and their mood does not improve gradually with time. The low mood and sadness remain persistent, and even during parties or celebrations of some kind, they remain preoccupied with their failures and inadequacies that happened in the past. With any kind of external changes, their mood does not change at all and their internal world remains almost constant. Sometimes they do seem to like doing some activities or be with specific people, but the overall intensity of their mood remains sad and low. This is often referred to as dysthymic mood, in comparison to the euthymic mood which means stable and somewhat happy mood. In general, mood fluctuates from very low to very high, depending on the activities and environment we are engaged in. But in depression, the mood remains constantly low and without any significant fluctuations. 

Other than mood being low, there are other clearly visible signs and symptoms. For example, reduced appetite, poor (or excessive ) sleep, lack of interest in anything, overthinking, fatigue and tiredness, irritability, poor confidence in self, lowe energy, and poor motivation, loss of weight if experienced for a longer time, and sometimes suicidal thoughts or wishes. These associated symptoms and changes in behaviors often co-exist with depressed mood and the cluster of these features is termed as Major Depressive Disorder. These symptoms must be present for at least 2 weeks consistently to be diagnosed as an illness/disorder. Hence, we can see that some people do develop sadness of mood to such an extent that it becomes a symptom of an illness. Not only the mood, but the other functions of the mind also get affected, which makes it a severe condition. This condition needs treatment, like any other physical illness. In fact, depression has many physical symptoms too. 

Although the use of the term Depression will continue to be used as such, in general use and in clinical communications, but we must remember in everyday life that an illness like depression also exists which needs medical attention and treatment. Our awareness matters a lot. We must know that people around us may be experiencing this illness but go unnoticed due to the casual understanding of this term. If you or anyone around you may be experiencing any of the symptoms of depression, do consult a specialist to know how severe it is and what kind of treatment it requires.

Please watch the video below to know more about depression. It answers three most commonly asked questions about depression, and it is part of a series of videos where I answer many such questions in brief. Like the video and Subscribe to the channel for more similar content updates.