What Is Depression?

Everyone experiences feelings of sadness and low mood as a normal part of life. But, when these feelings last for two weeks or more and negatively impact our ability to work, socialize, and enjoy favorite activities, it could be a sign of major depression.

Major depression is a psychological condition which is defined by a specific set of symptoms and thought to be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.

Signs or symptoms of depression may include:

  • Persistent depressed mood
  • Significant loss of interest/enjoyment in regular activities
  • Significant weight loss/gain
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feeling the need to move about or experiencing slowness in movement
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty with concentration or indecisiveness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

The good news is that symptoms of major depression can often be improved through effective treatments which can include psychotherapy, medications, or a combined treatment approach.

What Is Anxiety?

Similar to feeling sad or down, anxiety and worry can often be common feelings experienced in daily life, particularly when going through stressful situations or major life changes.

Often times, this anxiety and worry is mild and temporary and does not interfere with daily life. However, some people experience intense anxiety and worry that lasts for longer periods of time, may be brought on by certain triggers or situations, and interferes with work, social activities, or enjoyment of favorite hobbies. These symptoms could be signs of an anxiety disorder.

There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders (panic disorder, specific phobia, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder) which are differentiated by the focus or trigger of the anxiety and the specific symptoms a person may experience.

Anxiety disorders can often co-occur with major depression and similar treatment approaches, including psychotherapy and/or medications, can be helpful in reducing the symptoms.

Treatment Options for Depression and Anxiety
A female counselor comforts her female client by putting her hand on the client’s shoulder

If you think that symptoms of depression or anxiety could be a problem you are facing, it’s often a good idea to discuss your concerns with a trained professional. Trained professionals, such as a medical doctor, psychologist, or counselor can listen to your concerns, provide a screening assessment and discuss the results, answer questions, and present a variety of treatment options that could be a good fit. The key thing to remember is that effective treatments are available and that you play a central role in the treatment planning process:

  • Medication: A variety of medications can be prescribed to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Working with a trained medical provider to discuss your current symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as your general health history (current/past health conditions, other current medications), is an important first step in selecting a medication.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy (or “talk therapy”) can be an effective treatment approach for reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many different kinds of psychotherapy exist, but the right treatment fit may be determined by the specific kinds of symptoms you are experiencing. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that has been demonstrated by research to be effective at reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Mobile Phone and Web-based Interventions: As the mental health field advances, researchers and practitioners are often looking to develop innovative treatment options and novel avenues for treatment delivery to increase access to care with the goal of improving mental health and wellness. Behavioral intervention technologies, using mobile phone apps, web-based tools, and sensor technologies, can help improve people’s sense of well-being and overcome problems related to depression and anxiety.These tools are increasingly part of the national healthcare systems in many parts of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Additionally, the importance and promise of these interventions has been recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health which defined mobile health as a key initiative for improving access to mental health care.

At the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies, we are committed to further developing and increasing access to mobile phone and web-based interventions to promote health and wellness. We are currently running several research studies testing cutting edge interventions. If you are interested to participate, read about our research registry and take our study screener.