Is Depression The Same For Everyone?

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated July 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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It’s a common word in the mental health world and in general: depression. As often as 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.

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

Medical dictionary definition of depression

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Treatment options for depression: Is it the same for everyone?
According to Merriam-Webster, depression (major depressive disorder) 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 associated with it would be untrue. People who experience depression often do so differently. For example, where one individual feels unable to do anything but sleep, someone else might have insomnia.

The particular symptoms each individual has might lend weight to the possible diagnosis of depression. However, even in specified diagnoses, such as postpartum depression or bipolar disorder, people can have varied symptoms. Some people may experience an overall lack of energy, while others feel a loss of interest towards activities they usually enjoy. The mental health of each person can be affected differently by the symptoms they have as well. Identifying specific depression types and the demographics in which they are most commonly found might help to show how depression differs for everyone’s mental health.

It’s important to note that depression (major depressive disorder) 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, and experiences.
Postpartum depression
One form of depression is postpartum depression. This mental health concern is one that occurs during pregnancy and after childbirth. As a parent 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 relatively obvious symptoms of PPD (postpartum depression) like self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or even thoughts of hurting your child. Less apparent symptoms might include eating and sleeping differently than usual, difficulty making decisions on a day to day basis, having a generally low mood, frequent crying, or a lack of connection with the baby. Many of these symptoms can be explained by the presence of a new baby—if the baby doesn’t sleep, parents don’t sleep. While these symptoms might be explained to an extent, it is still important to talk to a mental health professional or your O.B. if any of these are present. It's always better to be screened for a mental illness before it has the chance to worsen. 

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 is explained as an extreme form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMDD is the result of changing hormones after ovulation. The change can result in a menstruating person feeling tense, having panic attacks, experiencing a lower sense of energy, binge eating, feeling long-lasting irritability, and even having suicidal thoughts. 

Although a standard case of PMS would account for some binge eating and irritability, people with PMDD experience depression symptoms to the extreme. They see significant changes in 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 have bipolar disorder, they would likely have completely different mental health experiences.

Often for men, symptoms of depression 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 using drugs or alcohol. While some women might experience the same signs and symptoms of depression, statistics show that these particular warning signs are far more common in men. Mental health concerns tend to be expressed differently in symptoms and how they heal.

Treatment in men is another topic altogether. 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 who 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 difficult to even investigate—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. 

For kids, symptoms of depression and other mental health concerns are commonly more physical. Where adults feel sad or irritable, kids physically 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 a 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, 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 antidepressants have been shown to help some children 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. Hispanic people who live in the USA may not speak the language and may also be far from any family. LGBTQ+ individuals may feel 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 develop. 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. Policemen and women, firefighters, and EMS workers 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. The increase in suicide attempts is one of the emerging health topics, and highlights the importance of raising awareness for health care workers on the front lines. 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 depression: Is it the same for everyone?
Treatment options for mental health conditions and depression vary in type, reason, location, and even on a case-by-case basis. In truth, treatment for major depression and other mental health conditions 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 is 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 who 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. Online therapy can be very convenient and has been found to be effective in treating depression.

If symptoms of depression persist, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is another treatment option for various types of depression. Electroconvulsive therapy is a painless/harmless treatment, where your deisgnated healthcare professional (usually your psychiatrist) will use the assistance of electrical currents on your brain to reduce symptoms of depression. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be beneficial for other mental disorders, if they’ve been triggered by a depressive episode.

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.

Online therapy for treating mental health conditions

One excellent option for the treatment of depression is online therapy. Online therapy can be a more affordable and convenient alternative to traditional in-person treatment. It can be worthwhile for people with depression to explore various health information before beginning therapy. Through health services like BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who is experienced in treating similar cases and chat with them via text, phone, and video calling, as well as through a 24/7 chat room. These meetings can happen from the comfort of your home, without the need to travel to an office.

Additionally, there’s no need to compromise between accessibility and quality of care. Research has shown that online therapy for depression is just as effective in achieving long-term results as in-person therapy for a range of people in a variety of situations.

Takeaway

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a complex disorder with a range of presentations. It looks different in everyone, though there are some common signs that may be evident, including changes in sleep and eating, low mood, and withdrawal from normal activities. If you suspect you may be experiencing the symptoms of depression, talk to a mental health professional and see about getting the treatment you need as soon as possible.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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