Depression: what is it, symptoms, signs, medicine, treatment, is it curable?

Much is said about depression in today’s society, however, many times, in an erroneous way. It is estimated that about 16% of the world population has suffered from depression at least once in their lives. Studies on the disease began in 1920 and, at the time, it was reported that women are twice as likely as men to become depressed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability, behind only heart disease.

The data is daunting and, in the current circumstances in which we live, we need to talk about depression. It must be understood that it is not just a passing sadness, but a disease . And, like any disease, it needs to be diagnosed early and treated correctly.


What is depression?

Feeling sad at specific times in life is normal, as after the death of a loved one. However, some people experience this feeling very intensely and for very long periods, which may not be just days, but months and even years.

The key point of the question is: these people do not always have an apparent reason to feel that way.

At the same time, depression may not manifest itself with intense sadness. Often, the person feels a certain emotional indifference. The patient has an absence of compassion, shame, responsibility, remorse and conscience.

In certain cases, the person may still be depressed even without showing another central symptom of the disease, which is anhedonia (or inability to feel pleasure).

Physiologically, depression is an imbalance in the brain. But, unlike other diseases, it cannot be cured with medication alone, as it is a combination of biological, psychological and social factors .

That is, your quality of life, your relationships and your way of facing the world, can be the triggers for depression to appear.

What are the causes of depression

It is not yet known exactly what are the causes for depression to be triggered. However, several factors may be involved:

Biological differences

People who suffer from depression have physical changes in their brains. Even though they do not know the exact significance of these differences, they can be one of the causes of the onset of the disease.

Brain chemicals

The brain has a form of natural chemistry, caused by neurotransmitters. Research shows that changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters, as well as the way they interact with the different neurocircuits that make up the brain, can play a significant role in depression and its treatment, since they directly affect the maintenance of mood stability. of the patient.


Some changes in the body can unbalance certain hormones produced and this can cause or be the trigger for depression. These changes in hormones happen, to a large extent, with pregnancy and during the weeks preceding delivery. They can also occur from a thyroid problem, menopause , among others.


Depression is more common to happen to a person who has relatives who also have the disease. Several genes linked to depression have been found, in addition to epigenetic factors (non-genetic variations transmitted from one generation to another), such as methylation (addition of methyl in the molecule) of DNA.

Risk factors

The disease can appear in any person, of any age and social class. However, some factors can directly influence the triggering of depression.

  • Some personality traits of the person, such as low self-esteem, self-criticism and pessimism;
  • Traumas or stresses, such as sexual abuse, death, relationships and difficult situations;
  • Childhood trauma;
  • Having relatives who already have a history of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism or suicide;
  • The issue of having a sexuality that is not supported by relatives or friends;
  • History of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Excessive alcohol or illegal drugs;
  • Chronic diseases, such as cancer, stroke or heart disease.

The types of depression

Many people are unaware, but depression can be divided into several types. Find out which ones are each below.

Major depression

This type of depression is less common than mild or moderate and is characterized by intense and relentless symptoms.

When left untreated, major depression lasts for about 6 months and the risk of a new episode is 5 times greater, although some people only have one episode in their entire lives.

On the other hand, when the first episode is treated properly, the risk of another occurring during the rest of life is 30%.

Atypical depression

A subtype of major depression, atypical depression is characterized by a very specific pattern of symptoms. People who suffer from this type of depression may have a temporary spike in mood in response to positive events.

Other recurrent symptoms are weight gain, excessive sleep and sensitivity to rejection.


The dysthymia happens on a recurring basis and the person who owns this depression symptoms has specifically not as severe as major depression, but they last much longer.

To be diagnosed with dysthymia, it is necessary that the patient has an episode lasting at least 2 years. Some people may still experience episodes of major depression simultaneously with dysthymia, a condition known as double depression.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Also known as seasonal depression, SAD affects about 1 to 2% of the world population and is characterized by the feeling of feeling different in winter: hopeless, sad, tense or stressed.

This type of depression starts in the fall or winter, when the days become shorter, and lasts until the beginning of spring.

Symptoms of depression

There are several symptoms that depression has, so, many times, they can be confused with those of another disease. We will divide these symptoms into two large groups: the general ones – subdivided into categories according to thoughts, physical pain, etc. – and how they are presented in each group of people – such as women and men.

General symptoms

The general symptoms of depression can be divided into 4 categories: behaviors, feelings, thoughts and physical. It is important to note that the patient will not always present all symptoms at once. Check out the main symptoms of depression sufferers.


  • He doesn’t leave the house anymore;
  • Has greater difficulty in doing things at work and / or at school;
  • Removal from family and friends;
  • Contact with alcohol and sedatives;
  • Activities that were once pleasurable cease to be;
  • Crying for no apparent reason;
  • Difficulty concentrating.


  • Overloaded;
  • Guilty;
  • Easily irritable;
  • Frustrated;
  • Lack of confidence;
  • Unhappy;
  • Undecided;
  • Disappointed;
  • Miserable;
  • Sad.


  • “I am a failure”;
  • “It’s my fault”;
  • “Nothing good happens to me”;
  • “I am useless”;
  • “Life is not worth living for”;
  • “People will be better off without me.”


  • Tiredness most of the time;
  • Episodes of illness and increasing discouragement;
  • Headaches and muscle aches;
  • Bowel problems;
  • Sleep problems;
  • Loss or change in appetite;
  • Significant weight loss or gain.

Read more: Symptoms of depression (physical, psychological, postpartum): what are they?

How symptoms are presented in people

Based on these general symptoms, we can divide them into 4 other categories, based on how they present themselves in different groups of people: men, women, children / adolescents and the elderly.


  • Less likely to have self-loathing and hopelessness than women;
  • Increased fatigue, irritability, sleep problems and loss of interest in work / hobbies;
  • They are more likely to be angry, aggressive and abuse chemicals.


  • They are more likely to experience feelings of guilt, excessive sleep and weight gain;
  • 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression.

Children / teenagers

  • Sadness does not normally appear in this group of people, but it is easy to see that they are more easily irritated and agitated;
  • Headaches, stomach upset or other physical pain can appear as well.


  • Older people complain more about physical symptoms than emotional ones, such as fatigue, pain and memory problems;
  • They may also dislike their physical appearance and stop taking medications that are essential to their health.

How is depression diagnosed?

If you have identified some of these symptoms mentioned in yourself, the ideal is to see a doctor as soon as possible, who can be a general practitioner or a psychiatrist. Contrary to what many people think, medical treatment helps – a lot – in cases of depression.

The diagnosis for the disease is made, basically, from a series of questions that the specialist will ask, such as:

  • If the symptoms presented are not improving;
  • If your mood is affecting your work and your relationships;
  • If you have thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

There are no physical tests for depression, but your doctor may order any blood and urine tests to make sure that you do not have another disease that has the same symptoms.

Can depression be cured? What is the treatment?


Depression can be cured, yes. However, as its causes are not yet fully understood, there is not only one, but several types of treatments for depression.

The most recommended by specialists is the use of medicines in conjunction with psychotherapy. In addition to this, there is also the treatment performed in hospitals, electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation and alternative treatments.


Psychotherapy is a treatment based on talking about the patient’s condition with a mental health professional . Among the many aids that psychotherapy can give you are:

  • Help in a crisis or other current difficulty;
  • Identify the person’s negative behaviors and replace them with healthy and positive ones;
  • Explore relationships and experiences so that positive interactions with others are developed;
  • Find better ways to deal with problems;
  • Identify the issues that contribute to your depression and behaviors that worsen the condition;
  • Recover satisfaction and control of life itself;
  • Help to set realistic goals for your life;
  • Develop the ability to tolerate and accept suffering using healthier behaviors.

Treatment in hospitals and specialized clinics

In some people, depression is so severe that treatment needs to be carried out in hospitals, because, many times, they are unable to take care of themselves on their own. Because they think that life is very difficult, they can resort to exits such as suicide or self-mutilation.

Electroconvulsive therapy

Performed under the effect of anesthesia, electroconvulsive therapy is done through electrical currents that pass through the patient’s brain and has the function of offering immediate relief from symptoms of depression .

This type of treatment is used in people who have no improvement with medications and is the first option for pregnant women, as this treatment has no direct action on babies.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation

Type of treatment also performed on people who have not improved with the drugs, transcranial magnetic stimulation is performed through a treatment coil that is placed against the patient’s scalp.

This coil sends brief magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the brain that work on regulating mood and depression. Usually, this treatment lasts for an initial duration of at least 4 weeks with up to 5 weekly sessions, to rescue the episode.

Alternative treatments

Alternative treatments are not a substitute for those performed by specialists, but they can be extremely helpful if done together. Some examples of these treatments are as follows:

  • Saint John’s herb;
  • Omega 3;
  • Acupuncture;
  • Relaxation techniques, such as yoga or tai chi;
  • Meditation;
  • Guided imagination;
  • Therapeutic massage;
  • Music or art therapy;
  • Spirituality;
  • Aerobic exercise;
  • Homeopathy.

Most used remedies

First of all, you need to know that a drug will not always have the same effect on different people. Therefore, going to the doctor is essential, as only he can indicate which is the best for your type of depression.

The drugs used to treat depression can be divided into the following categories:

  • Serotonin reuptake inhibitors;
  • Selective serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors;
  • Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors;
  • Atypical antidepressants;
  • Tricyclic antidepressants;
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors;
  • Other medications.

Among these drugs are the following:

  • Venlafaxine (Alenthus XR, Efexor XR, Venlaxin, Venlift OD, Vensate Lp, Adapta) ;
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil, Anafranil SR, Clo, Clomipran, Fenatil) ;
  • Buspirone (Ansitec) ;
  • Sertraline (Assert) ;
  • Citalopram (Alcytam, Cipramil, Citta, Denyl, Maxapran, Procimax, Zoxipan) ;
  • Duloxetine (Abretia, Cymbalta, Cymbi, Dual, Velija) ;
  • Fluoxetine (Daforin, Fluxene, Prozac, Psiquial, Verotin S) ;
  • Trazodone (Donaren, Donaren Retard, Loredon) ;
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro, Eficentus, Deciprax, Escilex, Espran, Eudok, Exodus) ;
  • Mirtazapine (Menelat, Razapina, Remeron Soltab) ;
  • Paroxetine (Aropax, Cebrilin, Depaxan, Moratus, Paxil CR, Paxtrat, Pondera, Roxetin)
  • Vortioxetine (Brintellix) ;
  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Elifore, Zindel, Andes, Deller, Desve, Imense) ;
  • Amitriptyline (Amytril) ;
  • Nortriptyline (Pamelor, Nortrip) ;
  • Agomelatine (Valdoxan) ;
  • Tranylcypromine (Parnate) .


NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.


If not treated as soon as possible and correctly, depression can cause serious complications:


Many people have overweight as a symptom of depression, which can result in the development of diabetes .

Substance abuse

It is estimated that approximately 25% of patients who suffer from alcoholism or addiction to other substances also suffer from depression.

Depression is also a known risk factor for smoking , in addition to increasing the risk of early onset of nicotine addiction, which can activate certain mood-related receptors in the brain.

Anxiety, panic disorder or social phobia

People with depressive conditions, for some reason, are more likely to develop other disorders, such as anxiety , panic disorder or social phobia .

Problems at work and relationships

Depression can greatly affect professional performance, as the patient sometimes does not have the strength to get out of bed and, when he is at work, he may not be as productive. This increases the risks of unemployment and low income.

In addition, the disease can have an impact on relationships with family members, and the patient’s partners, spouses or children, for example, have a higher risk of having a depressive episode.

Social isolation

Because of the disease, it may be that the patient isolates himself from the rest of the people, including friends and close family members. Depressive thoughts make the person not feel good about themselves and, as a result, do not feel good about other people around them.

Risk of suicide and self-harm

Depressed patients have an up to 15% higher risk of suicide. Of the patients suffering from depression, men are more likely to commit suicide when compared to women, with suicide being more common in patients over the age of 60 years.

This is due to suicidal ideation, which often accompanies patients during depressive episodes. In addition, these patients are more likely to commit self-mutilation.

Heart infarction and stroke

Depression is believed to produce biological changes that can have harmful effects on physical health. The decrease in serotonin levels can activate organic stress responses , which can lead to blood clotting problems, inflammation and organ damage, increasing the chances of a heart attack and stroke.

How to overcome

In addition to medical treatment, the patient needs to help himself. For this, some tips are quite valid so that the overcoming of the disease can happen:

  • Simplify your life;
  • Don’t isolate yourself;
  • Learn ways to relax and manage your stress;
  • Structure your time;
  • Don’t make important decisions when you’re down;
  • Stay active;
  • Have a good diet;
  • Find ways to re-engage with the world.

How to prevent


As much as there are no certain ways to prevent depression, some strategies can be applied:

  • Take steps to control stress;
  • Ask for help from your family and friends when you are facing a difficult period;
  • Seek professional help at the first sign of depression;
  • Consider starting long-term treatment to help prevent future relapse.

Many people are unaware that they suffer from depression because they cannot see in themselves the characteristic symptoms of the disease. So if you know someone who is behaving typical of someone who is depressed, talk to them and suggest looking for a doctor. The sooner the disease is diagnosed, the better!