Is Depression a Normal Part of Life?

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Question:  Is depression a normal part of life?

Answer:  Feeling a little sad or blue from time to time is normal.  We all have our ups and down in response to life's stresses.  Where it becomes abnormal, however, is when feelings of depression last for a long time or become quite severe and difficult to shake.  When this happens a person may have what is known as Major Depressive Disorder, a condition which may need treatment in order to get better.

Some of the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder include:

  • Sad, empty or depressed feelings
  • A loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Problems with thought, memory and decision-making
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you have been dealing with these symptoms for at least two weeks, it is possible that you may have Major Depressive Disorder.  If these symptoms are interfering with your life, especially if you are having thoughts of harming yourself,  it is a wise idea to see your doctor for a checkup.  Your doctor will be able to determine if you may have any sort of medical issue which could be causing your symptoms.  If a medical issue is ruled out, then she may either prescribe antidepressant medication for you herself or opt to refer to you to a mental health professional, such as psychiatrist or psychotherapist.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are experts in using medications such as antidepressants in order to treat mental disorders like depression.  Psychotherapists utilize talk therapy in order to help you deal with issues in your life which may be contributing to your depression.  The best form of treatment for depression is often a combination of these two types of treatment.

If you have been feeling depressed for a long time (at least two years), but your symptoms are not particularly severe, you might still benefit from seeing a doctor.  There is another type of depression called Persistent Depressive Disorder (formerly known as Dysthymic Disorder) which may not be quite as severe as Major Depressive Disorder, but is chronic in nature.  Sometimes episodes of Major Depression can also overlap with Persistent Depressive Disorder. 

Persistent Depressive Disorder shares many of the same symptoms as Major Depressive Disorder, such as:

  • Feelings of sadness and depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Problems with appetite
  • Poor concentration

Antidepressant medications are one option for treating Persistent Depressive Disorder, however, they may not be as effective as they are for Major Depressive Disorder or they may take longer to work.  Psychotherapy can also be helpful for Persistent Depressive Disorder.

Doctors might also recommend certain self-help measures for Persistent Depressive Disorder, such as:

  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising
  • Doing things that you enjoy
  • Talking to a trusted friend
  • Forming a support network among your friends and family
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol, which can exacerbate feelings of depression

These recommendations can also be a helpful addition to treatment for those suffering from Major Depressive Disorder.


Mayo Clinic Staff.  "Depression (Major Depressive Disorder):  Treatments and Drugs."  Mayo Clinic.  Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.  Published:  July 22, 2015.  Accessed:  July 29, 2015.

"Persistent Depressive Disorder."  Medline Plus.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  Updated by:  Timothy Rogge, MD:  September 2, 2014.  Reviewed by David Zieve, MD, Isla Ogilvie, PhD and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team:  September 2, 2014.  Accessed:  July 29, 2015.

"Symptoms of Depression."  WebMD.  WebMD, LLC.  Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD:  August 21, 2014.  Accessed:  July 29, 2015.

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