Unlocking Depression

Identifying the causes of your depression and finding answers to its symptoms may help you restore your motivation, vitality and self-esteem.

Depression can feel like an insurmountable burden. It has as many faces as it has causes. For some it can feel like a crushing weight, for others a floating or emptiness. Some people may become angry, irritable, or agitated when they’re depressed, while others may feel passive, hopeless or withdrawn.

Whether mild or severe, depression can lock one’s frame of mind in a different cast. It can affect motivation and, if serious enough, become completely debilitating.

Depression is the single greatest contributor to the mental health disease burden, and in the United States and other high-income countries it tops the list of all disease burdens, including heart disease and cancer. In fact, outside the category of “clinical depression” (Major Depression), milder forms, like situation-linked depression or “feeling blue”, see an incidence approaching 100%.

Everybody can get depressed at some time or another. People can be more vulnerable to depression when they experience disappointment, discouragement, sadness, loss, or life change—as well as for for seemingly inexplicable reasons. In some cases depression can be more a function of biological or genetic vulnerability, independent of life circumstances.

A tense handThe symptoms of depression can persist over a long period of time or, in some cases, all the time, and can significantly impact one’s normal functioning. When a pattern of depressive symptoms appears together, clinical depression, also known as Major Affective Disorder or Major Depression, may be one possible diagnosis.

People who experience one or more symptoms of depressions persistently, such as low self-esteem or difficulty finishing projects, may not be suffering clinical depression at all but have either a different psychological problem or a biological problem such as metabolic dysfunction.

Understanding the unique “footprint” of a person’s depression demands a careful and methodical exploration of its nature, its underlying causes and its severity. Psychotherapy provides a formative, structured setting in which a skilled psychologist can work closely with the individual to learn and uncover the sources of deep or lingering depression.

Dr. Wu’s treatment for depression starts with a thorough evaluation of a new patient in her Boston office , followed by a treatment recommendation. This may include psychotherapy, including psychodynamic therapy or elements of mindfulness-based therapies such as MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy), through medications, or a combination of these approaches.

Symptoms of depression:

Lack of interest or pleasure, lack of engagement

Lack of libido or interest in sex

Decreased ability to function at work or school or do normal chores

Diminished self esteem

Social withdrawal or avoidance of others

Guilt or self-recrimination, self-criticism and self-doubt

Feeling behind or unable to keep up, feeling overwhelmed

Sadness or depressed mood

Hopelessness or helplessness

Lethargy, low energy

Loss of appetite or increased appetite, including significant weight gain or weight loss

Increased sleep or sleep disturbance, including waking up spontaneously earlier in the morning than usual

Anger or irritability, or agitation

Difficulty concentrating


Pessimism about the future

Difficulty making decisions

Difficulty finishing tasks or initiating new projects

Thoughts of suicide

Read about Growing with Life.