What Does it Mean to Have Depression?

Depression or feeling depressed are terms that are often used, but what exactly does the word depression mean?

Life is filled with emotions and not all of these are happy ones. Everyone has times when they feel unhappy or sad. This is normal. It does not mean that the person is depressed as long as these emotions only last for short periods of time. People who have had a loved one die can also feel miserable. Grief can last for long periods or come and go. Some times, like the anniversary of the death or the person’s birthday, can be especially hard. This is part of grief and does not necessarily mean the person is depressed, although people that are grieving can also be at risk for becoming depressed.

When a psychologist or doctor talks about depression they are talking about something called ‘clinical depression’. This is very different to feeling sad for a while or grieving someone you have lost. People who have clinical depression feel sad most of the time for weeks or longer. They also do not find their usual happiness or joy in things that they normally love doing. So depression does not just mean feeling sad – it also means losing the ability to feel happiness. (Think about the dementors in Harry Potter they are actually very symbolic for what it feels like to be clinically depressed.)

So while feeling unhappy or sad is part of being human, depression is actually a very common mental health issue that can make it hard for a person to lead a normal life. This is because while feeling sad isn’t enjoyable, clinical depression creates significant problems for a person in their day-to-day life. That is why it is considered to be a mental health problem that needs treatment.

If you think that you or someone you care about may have clinical depression you can talk to your family doctor, a psychologist or psychiatrist because there are effective treatments for depression that can make daily life much better.