What is the Definition of Depression?

definition of depression

Defining Depression

The Word Depression

Depression as a term has multiple meanings: 

  • The first definition of depression may indicate what is called a mood state with feelings such as : melancholy, despair, hopelessness etc.  

    A depressed mood can be normal such as after suffering a breakup, disappointment or loss. Depressed mood can also be part of a known medical disorder or a symptom of mental illness.  Depression, when referring to a syndrome, represents a group of symptoms that may include a depressed mood. Types of depressive syndromes include major depression (also called major depressive disorder), seasonal depression, or dysthymia. The term “Manic Depression” is different and is discussed on another blog post. Depression can also be a term used to distinguish a mental disorder from other disorders, as they would appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM (the manual of all officially recognized mental health diagnoses by the American Psychiatric Association).


  • As a mental disorder, a simplified definition of depression is the presence of 5 or more of the following symptoms over at least the two previous weeks:  

    1. depressed mood (or irritable mood in adolescents)
    2. decreased interest or pleasure
    3. significant weight loss or gain
    4. insomnia or hypersomnia
    5. feeling sped up or slowed down
    6. loss of energy
    7. feelings of worthlessness
    8. poor focus
    9. suicidal thoughts.  
    People that have depression might have slowed speech or movement, restlessness and may actually pace around.

    The diagnosis of a depressive disorder is made by a trained clinician such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Dr. Sean Paul, MD is a board certified psychiatrist specializing in treating mental health issues both in person and via telemedicine

child psychiatrist

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