Depression affects our best friends—our mothers and our daughters and our brothers. It’s a woman smiling because she just got the promotion she’s been wanting. It’s a little boy wondering why he doesn’t have the energy to play today. It’s a teenage girl who just got into the college of her dreams. It’s a man working out at the gym, trying to shake that weird feeling.
Depression isn’t picky about its victims. And it doesn’t always manifest in the same way. There are good days and there are bad days. Because of its multiplicity, it can be hard to understand and sometimes hard to identify. Or even if you understand it, you may spend some days wondering, ‘Am I depressed?’ ‘Do I have depression?’ ‘Am I okay?’

Diagnostic Criteria for Depression

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), lays out a list of criteria that is used to determine major depressive disorder, which can vary in severity and recurrence. If you’re concerned or think there may be a chance that you have depression and might need to seek treatment, check your symptoms with the following:

  • You experience at least five of the following during the same 2-week period, which represent a change from previous functioning. Additionally, at least one of the symptoms is either a depressed mood or a loss of interest.
    • You experience a depressed state most of the day, virtually everyday, as recognized by thy self or others.
    • You have a significantly decreased interest in all or most activities for the majority of the day, nearly every day.
    • You gain or lose a significant amount of weight, or regularly experience a decreased or increased appetite.
    • You have insomnia or hypersomnia almost every day.
    • Your psychomotor skills are hindered nearly every day, which is observable by others and is not just self-reported.
    • You feel fatigued or tired nearly every day.
    • You feel worthless or guilty every day.
    • Your ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions is diminished nearly every day.
    • You have recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, and/or have attempted suicide.
  • The aforementioned symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impair everyday function.
  • The depressive episode cannot be attributed to the physiological effects of a substance or other medical condition.
  • The occurrence of the episode is not better explained by a specified or unspecified schizophrenia spectrum disorder or other psychotic disorder.
  • You have never had a manic or hypomanic episode.

“This Is My Fight Song”

If you’re depressed, you might feel like there’s no way out. Like you’re trapped inside a locked box, which a key was never created for. But that’s not the case. While dealing with depression is a struggle, you can fight it. There are a couple different treatment options for you, which include:

  • Psychotherapy: This form of therapy involves talking about your feelings of depression with a mental health professional. It is designed to help you find better coping methods, identify issues that may be contributing to depression, as well as identify negative behaviors and replace them with positive ones.
  • Medication: Antidepressants are typically used to treat feelings of depression. These include SSRIs, SNRIs, and many others. You’ll have to go on your own medication journey, as the same drug does not have the same effect on all individuals. It may work for one person and be ineffective for another. But there are plenty of medications to try until you find one that works best for you.

A Truly Difficult Puzzle

Mental illness isn’t always understood by those that go unaffected by it. They simply can’t comprehend the struggle and the pain that come with something like depression—but that doesn’t mean that it’s all in your head or that it doesn’t exist. The symptoms may not present themselves as an itchy rash on your arm or a temperature of 102, but it’s real and it hurts:

“Sad hurts, but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” –J.K. Rowling

“The only thing more exhausting than being depressed is pretending that you’re not.”

“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”

Depression is ruthless and unforgiving. But it does not go unchallenged. The brave, strong individuals who suffer with the illness spend their lives fighting back and rediscovering hope and happiness—even with the black veil of despair over their eyes. You—yes you— deserve happiness. So keep up the fight. I’m rooting for you.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
–Eleanor Roosevelt

“From their experience came pain and from their pain came purpose and from their purpose came beauty.”
–J. Arcangel

“The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who win battles we know nothing about.”

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