Depression: What is it and What are the common misconceptions associated with it?

Isabella MacLean '24, Contributing Writer

What is Depression?
What is depression? By definition depression is a mental disorder that causes a persistent feeling of severe sadness and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. A single depressive episode typically lasts two weeks or more and affects all aspects of someone’s life. Depression is more than just occasionally feeling sad or having the “blues”, it is a mental illness that needs to be treated.

Forms of Depression
There are 9 main forms of depression, the most known being major depression or clinical depression. Others include persistent depression, bipolar disorder, depressive psychosis, perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, seasonal depression, atypical depression, and situational depression.

Causes of Depression
There are many factors, including biological and psychological, that are the root of many cases of depression. Genetics, medical problems, chemical imbalances within the brain, substance abuse, and mood regulation issues are all possible causes for depression. Certain genes that run in families make some more vulnerable to depression than others. A lot of cases of depression are rooted in chemical disorders which is why it can be treated with medication. However, depression can also spring from stressful life events, or even from being isolated from others for too long.

Symptoms of Depression
Some of the most typical symptoms of depression are persistent empty feeling, deep sadness, feelings of hopelessness, decreased appetite, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, sleeping too much or too little, thoughts of self harm or even suicide. Despite these being the most common signs, depression looks and feels different for every single person.

The Difference Between Sadness and Depression
Depression is different from grief, different from simply being sad. A lot of people underestimate the way it constricts those with this mental illness. Telling someone with depression “feel better” or “just don’t be sad” isn’t going to magically cure them. It is not something that anyone can fix in a day. No one can control whether or not they suffer from depression or any mental health issue for that matter. It’s not a feeling, it’s a psychological issue that cannot be cured, only treated.

Stigma about Depression
Stigma surrounding mental health has always existed in society and only recently have people truly started to provide helpful resources and pay more attention to the topic. Depression is a psychological illness meaning it cannot be controlled. It is important for people to know that success and depression can coexist. Not every depressed person is lazy, unhygienic, or unsuccessful. Depression affects everyone in a different way and we shouldn’t stereotype those with this mental illness as any of those things.

Romanticization of Depression
Recently on social media, specifically tiktok, mental illness is becoming more and more like an aesthetic. While we should be debunking the stereotypes associated with depression and educating others about it, we also shouldn’t be painting mental illness as appealing or aesthetic. Saying things like “depression makes you funnier,” bragging about having mental health problems in an attempt to be relatable, or showing the effects of depression in a Tik Tok video with aesthetic music are all small examples of the way the internet romanticizes depression. Romanticization is different from bringing awareness. Awareness and learning about depression is important but romanticizing it is counter productive. As a result many social media users, mostly young kids, self diagnose.

Treatment for Depression
There is no cure for depression, only ways to treat it. Therapy is one of the most common treatments. Counseling a psychologist for practical coping skills and simply talking about what you’re feeling is one of the effective ways to treat depression. Medication is another popular option for treating depression and anxiety, but is occasionally risky. Talk therapy and medication aren’t the only treatments for mental illness. There are a lot of unique options for special cases, such light therapy for seasonal depression.

Depression is real and present. The rising cases of depression in the United States shouldn’t be ignored.

Massachusetts Mental Health Hotline: 1-866-903-3787

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Information Sources:
NIMH » Depression (

Depression (

The Romanticization of Mental Illness (

Types of Depression: Chronic, Episodes, and More (