Depression Meaning: Is It The Same For Everyone?

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Natalie Feinblatt

It’s a common word in the mental health world and in general: depression. With how much it’s used in everyday conversation, it might make you wonder if it means the same thing for everyone. While depression might have one dictionary definition, the way it is used daily gives it a broader meaning. The same kind of word usage is used with bipolar disorder.

With the addition of various kinds of depressive disorders that are filed under the depression name, likely, the meaning of depression is not the same for everyone. Identifying the specifics of an individual’s personal mental health journey might help professionals to determine the best route for treatment, be it counseling, medication, or other forms of therapy.

Medical Dictionary Definition Of Depression

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According to Merriam-Webster, depression is defined as “a mood disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.” To say that an individual with depression feels every single mental health symptom as defined would be untrue. People that experience depression often does so differently. Where one individual feels unable to do anything but sleep, someone else might have insomnia.

The particular type of disorder each individual has might lend some weight to the possible symptoms of depression. However, even in specified cases, such as postpartum depression or bipolar disorder, people can have varied symptoms. The mental health of each person can be affected differently by the symptoms they have, as well. Identifying specific depression types and the demographics they are most commonly found in might help to show how depression differs for everyone’s mental health.

Depression In Women

It’s important to note that depression affects people regardless of gender. By making an effort to understand these types of depression and mental health in general, you will better grasp the idea that depression differs from person to person. The meaning of depression is not the same for all people – it varies by type, including bipolar disorder or major depression, symptoms of depression, and experiences.

Postpartum Depression

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One form of depression is postpartum depression. This mental health concern is one that occurs in pregnancy and after childbirth. As a mother with a brand-new baby, you might feel overwhelmed, stressed, and missing out on a lot of sleep. While these are all normal feelings for experiencing life with a newborn, some symptoms push the boundaries of what’s considered normal.

There are glaringly obvious symptoms of PPD (postpartum depression) like self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or even thoughts of hurting your child. Less apparent symptoms of depression might include eating and sleeping differently than usual, feeling moody, frequent crying, or lacking a connection with the baby. Many of these symptoms can be explained away with the presence of a new baby – if the baby doesn’t sleep, Mom doesn’t sleep. Taking care of a whole new person makes Mom forget to eat. The lack of sleep brings forth moodiness and crying. These aren’t always a red flag to look at a mom’s mental health.

While these symptoms of depression might be explained away, it is still important to talk to a mental health professional or your O.B. if any of these are present. It is always better to ensure that your mind is safe from depression before it has the chance to worsen. The same is true for PMDD.

It is also possible for fathers to develop postpartum depression, for similar reasons that mothers get it (e.g., a lack of sleep, being overwhelmed and stressed, and the complex emotions that being a new parent brings).

PMDD As A Mental Health Condition

PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, is a type of depression that exists in 5% of women of childbearing age. This specific kind of depression is explained as an extreme form of PMS. PMDD is the result of changing hormones after a woman’s ovulation. The change can result in women feeling tense, having panic attacks, a lower sense of energy, binge eating, long-lasting irritability, and even suicidal thoughts. Although a standard case of PMS would account for some binge eating and irritability, women with PMDD experience the depression symptoms to the extreme. They see significant changes to their own mental health.

Depression In Men

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While there are not necessarily any depression disorders specific to men, a lot of men experience depression differently than their female counterparts. Statistically, and scientifically, men tend to talk about their problems less than women. They also typically express sadness as aggression or anger. Because of this, the symptoms of depression for men are often different from those that a woman might feel. If a man were to have bipolar disorder and a female were to also have bipolar disorder, they would likely have completely different definitions of the mental health experience.

For men, symptoms of depression might include anger, problems with their sex performance or a lack of interest in sex, trouble with remembering details, taking part in risky activities, failing to accomplish their responsibilities within a family or work environment, and abusing drugs or alcohol. While some women might experience the same depression symptoms, statistics show that these particular warning signs are far more common in men. Mental health concerns come across differently in symptoms and how they heal.

Treatment in men is another topic altogether. Mental health is not typically something men like to share or talk about. This leads to men avoiding treatment options and making an attempt to get through it alone. There is a stigma about mental health, but this is especially true when it comes to men. Men can have depression, bipolar disorder, or significant depressive illnesses like anyone else. How they react to it, the symptoms of depression they experience, and the treatment (if any) is what differs from that of others that have the same disorders.

Depression In Children

No one likes to think that their child might have mental health issues or childhood depression. It can be a hard thing to accept – or to even look into – but the truth is that without treatment, your child will likely only get worse. If a parent has experienced mental health issues, their child is more likely to do the same. If a close family member has depression or bipolar disorder, the child is also more likely to have those conditions.

For kids, symptoms of depression and other mental health concerns are commonly more physical. Where adults feel sad or irritable, kids sensibly experience their pains. They might also remove themselves from social situations, run away from home, or make comments about their lack of self-worth. It can be challenging to identify these things in a child, but bringing it to his or her pediatrician’s attention is typically the first step. Childhood depression is a tough topic, but getting your child help as soon as possible is crucial.

Children typically are treated with CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy or mental health medications. While medications are not usually the first solution to the problem, antidepressants have been known to decrease suicide rates, especially in kids. Although prescriptions are at times the last resort, it’s hard to deny that successful antidepressants have shown those with mental health concerns.

Depression In Minority Groups And First Responders

Minority groups tend to experience depression far more than the other part of the population. For example, Hispanic people, LGBTQ+ individuals, and first responders are among some of the highest demographics to have depression. What is it about these particular groups that increase the rate of mental health issues?

Being in the minority can add stress to an individual’s life. For Hispanic people that live in the USA, they may not speak the language and may also be far from any family. LGBTQ+ individuals may feel the pressure to adhere to society’s sense of “normal” and can feel alone in the world as they learn who they are. These pressures alone can cause depression to set in. When risk factors come into play, the mental health concerns in these groups can be seen more clearly.

First responders experience trauma as a part of their job. Police, fire, and EMS are on the front lines helping those in need on some of the worst days of their lives. With such experiences, PTSD, depression, and anxiety tend to set in. In fact, first responders are 20% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Because of the background involved in how these individuals developed depression, their mental health experience is often unlike anyone else.

Treatment Options For Depression: Is It The Same For Everyone?

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Treatment options for mental health concerns and depression vary in type, reason, location, and even on a case-by-case basis. In truth, treatment is different for everyone. One person’s depression is different from the next person’s – treating each case similarly would likely result in poor mental health care. For example, a child suffering from depression would not benefit from online counseling. This is especially true if the child was too young to communicate what’s on their mind. Instead, a child might do better with play therapy.

A paramedic suffering from PTSD and depression might find success with a group of other first responders that have seen similar things. Mothers with postpartum depression might feel most comfortable with online counseling, as they can reach out to a counselor while the baby is awake late at night. No matter how an individual seeks help, the important thing is that advice is sought. Depression can get better – as long as the necessary assistance is there.


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