Ask a Therapist – Depression FAQs

Rates of depression among all ages and genders have increased. It is important that parents, as well as children, know the effects and causes of depression. As a psychology major, I took a class at UNC called PSYC 245 – Psychopathology. After taking this class, I became more aware of the nuances of symptoms between different mental disorders and illnesses, including depression.

However, most people do not have the luxury of taking a class at a university to gain more information about a topic, so I interviewed a licensed therapist to answer the most commonly asked questions about depression. This is so those who seek more information about this topic can have access to reliable information from a licensed therapist.

What is the difference between feeling sad and being depressed?

“Sadness is an emotion that we all experience but being depressed is kind of like having a dark rain cloud constantly over your head. This is similar to when we talk about anxiety or worry, sadness is an emotion that we were created with to help us become activated. Our sadness helps us to be more understanding of others, helps us support others, and leads us to respond in ways that are needed at times.

However, depression is more than just a feeling of sadness that eventually passes. People who have depression often feel exhausted and heavy, like they are moving slowly and just have very little interest in pleasurable activities. Additionally, they can feel worthless or guilty and have difficulty concentrating. One thing is for sure, depression affects the way you think, feel, and act.”

How long do depressive episodes usually last?

“It really just depends on the person’s experience. For diagnostic purposes, a depressive disorder would last at least two weeks. It is not uncommon for episodes to last for months though.”

How can depression affect someone?

“It can affect one’s total quality of life. It becomes hard to do the simple tasks for daily care, let alone bigger tasks like attending a birthday party. It affects personal relationships as well as career or schoolwork. Having depression can make it more difficult to live life and perform simple tasks that used to be easier in the past.”

Can people still function at their jobs and in their relationships?

“Yes, some people can function in their jobs and in relationships despite their depression symptoms. I am not saying that they may not have difficulties, but they are functioning.  They get their job done and they stay in relationships. This is often because they have tools to help them though.”

How can friends and family support their loved ones with depression?

“Friends and family can support their loved ones by learning more about depression and being kind and empathetic to the person suffering. Loved ones can offer support by allowing family members to receive the care they need.”

What are the different kinds of depression?

“There are many different types of depression such as Major Depressive Disorder, which is probably the most common; but there are plenty of Depressive Disorders. These include: Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, Dysthimia (Persistent Depressive Disorder), Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, Substance/Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder, Depressive Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition, and Other Specified Depressive Disorder.”

Can something trigger a depressive episode?

“Depression episodes can be triggered by stressful and negative life circumstances for some individuals. Other times, things may be going very well, and some individuals still experience depressive episodes.”

What actions can someone do to come out of a depressive episode?

“I would encourage someone to seek mental health treatment. A lot of people who suffer from depression benefit from psychotherapy and medication management. Another tip for people who are experiencing depression is to just make yourself do the things. Make yourself get out of bed, regardless of how tired and down you feel and go into work, go to that niece’s birthday party, go pick up some delicious food. It is really hard, but idol time is really not helpful at all. I also encourage people to exercise, monitor their diet and keep a journal.”

How often can someone feel depressed?

“It just depends. Some people may feel depressed for weeks, others months, and some people report feeling depressed or dysthymic for years”

Can depression be a part of other mental illnesses? Could it be a “symptom” or an effect of another mental illness like bipolar disorder?

“Yes and no. When you are diagnosing someone with something like Major Depressive Disorder, you are ruling out other disorders such as Bipolar. However, depression can be a part of another disorder like mood disorders. Another thing to remember is that depressive disorders can also be comorbid with other disorders and they may present differently across ages and cultures.

The way one group of people typically expresses symptoms and difficulties of depression may look different.  Depression can be misdiagnosed, especially when youth present as defiant and angry instead of sad and hopeless based on those expressions of emotions.” 

In conclusion, everyone will have a different journey when dealing with depression. Depression can affect any gender at any age. Treatment, triggers, experiences, and coping mechanisms will vary from person to person. However, having depression will affect anyone’s quality of life. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or another mental health issue and cannot find immediate services, please call 911 for emergencies or go to the Crisis Text Line

Try to reach out for help or help someone you know receive the help they need. Ideally, this person will see a therapist and seek psychological help; however, not everyone has the financial means or resources to do so. Be empathic to those who are struggling. They are trying their best!

Written by: 

Ariayana Harrell, Rising Senior at UNC Class of 2023

Psychology B.S and Sociology B.A

Women and Gender Studies Minor.