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Depression, Defined.

6 min read

Depression is a term that is top of mind for many right now, however, it can be difficult to understand and identify. Frame Therapist Natalie Kazarian joined us for a Frame Discussion to define depression and outline associated mental health terms.

Below you will find an excerpt from that conversation. 


Q: What is depression? I'm unhappy most days, but not sure if this is just a phase or something more serious. 

Natalie: Before I talk about what depression is, I want to talk about the feeling of sadness, and [the difference between the two]. 

Sadness is a very common feeling for people. Sadness is something that we experience when we don't get what we want in our life; perhaps we are in a relationship with somebody and it's not going the way we want, or maybe things are really hard at work and the feeling of sadness is something that happens and it causes us to think about what we need in the world, and then we have an ability to be able to feel better by doing one of the following: exercising, talking to a friend, going to therapy, venting or any other coping strategy that you may have. 

Depression on the other hand is a clinical diagnosis that is a pervasive feeling that you have for at least two weeks. With depression you might associate with five of the following symptoms: feelings of sadness, low energy, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, fatigue, or you no longer are able to experience joy. 

I would say the main marker for depression versus just a feeling of sadness is if you can feel relief at some point throughout your weeks. Like I mentioned, sadness is a feeling that we all have and we're able to feel better by doing some sort of coping, depression is not that way. 

It’s important to note that there is a spectrum of how severe depression is from mild to moderate to very, very severe that might involve feelings of suicidality. 

Typically feelings of sadness, just the general feeling, does not involve wanting to hurt or kill yourself. So if you're feeling unhappy most days, and you're not sure if this is just a phase, I would ask that you speak to a therapist to find out if this is the diagnosis for you. It’s important that you are getting the treatment that you need. 


Q: What does depression look like? Typically I would picture a depressed person as someone who's crying all the time and suicidal, but are there other ways this can manifest? 

Natalie: Absolutely. I also want to make the distinction that childhood depression looks different from adult depression. 

Children who are depressed seem to have more somaticize symptoms. Somatic symptoms are things that we feel in our body, things like headaches, stomach aches, tension. Now, granted, these can all happen in adult depression, but typically there's less of an ability to be able to label a feeling. 

In childhood depression, they will often complain about things that are going on in their body. 

In adults, someone could certainly be suicidal and crying all the time, or they could just be very irritable, they can feel isolated, not wanting to engage socially with people, or it can look like not finding joy in otherwise really joyful activities. If you suspect yourself to be wanting to isolate more, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, constantly feeling irritated or angry, I would suggest that you connect with a therapist who can properly diagnose you with depression. 


Q: I've been really sad and down for the past couple of years, but my friend told me that depression only lasts two to three weeks. Are there different types of depression? 

Natalie: Yes, there are several different types of depression. Let’s talk through a few: 

First, major depressive disorder, which happens when you experience symptoms for at least two weeks. 

Another type of depression is called persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia. 

Now the sign here with dysthymia is more of a general feeling that happens for years. It's kind of a low level of mood. Maybe you only see the cynical side of life, and experience overall negativity and a downness. This is something that I believe a lot of people experience, but they are not properly diagnosed. It can be really impactful in different areas, so whether it be in your relationships at work, in your social life, if you're feeling like you're not totally there, or you're not totally present and energetic, 

I would encourage you once again to go talk to somebody so they can really diagnose you. 

A couple other depressive disorders include:

  • Postpartum depression, which may present after a woman has a child. 
  • Seasonal affective disorder, which happens in the winter months in states that don't get a lot of sunlight. 
  • Manic Depression, which is a trait of Bipolar Disorders

Depression can manifest in many different ways and they all look a little different and have different treatments. So I encourage you once again, you go talk to a therapist.

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