The History of Depression and the Impact It Has Had on Humanity

September 07, 2021

The History of Depression and the Impact It Has Had on Humanity

Depression is extremely common worldwide. We hope this article will help you understand the history of depression and its continued impact on humanity, so you can feel less alone and perhaps even better understand your symptoms. 

Depression Basics: Depression in History

Dating back to 400 B.C., a Greek philosopher named Hippocrates speculated that our bodies contained only fluids like blood, bile, and phlegm. When these fluids became out of balance, a sickness would occur. When someone grew sick, the Greeks would call it melancholia

Melancholia is technically a subtype of what we now know as depression. This was one of the first terms used to describe depression.

Skipping ahead to the Renaissance age, many Europeans shifted the meaning of melancholia to be a sign of “creative genius.” The meaning then shifted again in the 18th century back to medical terms, and in the 19th century, the terms depression and melancholia were used hand in hand. Essentially, Sigmund Freud assisted in making melancholia’s definition more modernized. 

Skip ahead to modern-day time: in the 1970s, clinicians introduced depressive disorder (MDD) in the United States. Now, the meaning of depression is geared more towards various factors such as biological, psychological, and social. With all of these factors in mind, they can all contribute to the causes and symptoms of depression. 

As time has passed, the meaning of depression has changed significantly. Let’s learn more about what depression is in today’s society and what symptoms to look out for. 

What Is the Definition of Depression? What Are Its Symptoms?

Depression is a common mental health condition that negatively impacts your feelings, thoughts, and actions. 

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad, down, or hopeless
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite, including sudden weight loss or gain
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or chronic fatigue
  • Feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions

Depression affects all of us differently, and you may experience any combination of its symptoms

Whatever your situation, remember that you deserve to feel supported amid the varying symptoms of depression. 

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it may be time to seek professional help. A mental health provider can help you figure out if you have depression and your options for treating and managing it. 

Feeling Hopeless or Worthless

Many of us feel inadequate, insecure, or like we aren’t “good enough” from time to time. However, if your feelings of insecurity lead you to feel worthless, hopeless, or completely unwanted or unneeded, they might be symptoms of depression. 

Pay attention to these feelings and how they may interfere with your daily life. They might cause problems in your job, daily activities, friendships, or relationships with significant others. 

These feelings often go beyond the initial emotion and start negatively affecting other parts of your life. This is why seeking treatment as quickly as possible is important.  

Having a Loss of Energy or Motivation

Many people with depression deal with lower overall energy levels and are prone to a vicious cycle of negative emotions. For example, exhaustion caused by depression can make it difficult to physically function, creating a sense of worthlessness that decreases your motivation to complete daily tasks. In addition, changing sleep patterns or weight changes could also impact your overall energy level. 

Having a loss of energy can make it challenging to find the motivation to go to work, clean your home, cook healthy food, participate in weekly workouts, or spend time with friends. This side effect of depression creates problems in your overall hygiene, health, and relationships.    

Having Difficulty Sleeping or Sleeping Too Much

Undersleeping or oversleeping can both be symptoms of depression. You may oversleep because you are afraid of your thoughts or sadness when you are awake, or you may undersleep because the feelings of stress, pain, or sadness are keeping you up. 

Unintentional Weight Loss or Weight Gain

Weight change can be linked to many types of conditions and isn’t necessarily always linked to purposely overeating or undereating. Depression and its symptoms, including stress and sleeplessness, can also cause sudden weight change. 

Are you someone who tends to comfort eat when you are upset, or are you someone who stops eating altogether because you lose your appetite? 

Whatever the case may be, if you find that you are gaining or losing weight excessively without trying, it may be a result of experiencing some symptoms of depression. 

Experiencing a Loss of Excitement for Things You Once Enjoyed

If you are typically someone with a positive attitude, who is consistently excited about life and all it has to offer, this abrupt change in your state of mind might be frightening. Maybe you used to enjoy swimming, painting, shopping, or cooking, but now you struggle to find joy in these activities. 

A loss of excitement is not unusual when experiencing depression. Just because you have a reduced interest now does not mean it will stay that way forever. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary.  

Typically, as you start treatment for depression and learn some coping strategies to help improve how you feel, you’ll start working your way toward feeling like yourself again, including picking up those activities and hobbies you once enjoyed. 

Feeling Sad or Down

Sadness is one of the most common emotions felt with depression. But sadness is not always indicative of depression, even if that sadness seems like it’s lingering. 

If you’ve experienced the passing of a loved one, extreme financial stress, or the loss of a job or home, feelings of sadness are natural. 

Sadness typically becomes a sign of depression when these feelings extend for prolonged amounts of time and interfere with your ability to complete daily activities, interact with others, or take care of yourself. 

Thinking of Death or Suicide

Thoughts of death or suicide are also common with depression. 

Immediately seek help if you begin experiencing suicidal ideations. There is help out there, and you are not alone. We promise. 

What Are the Types of Depression?

There are many different types of depression. Some types of depression are caused by certain medical disorders, such as nutrient deficiencies, brain tumors, and thyroid imbalances. Others are linked with specific events in your life, such as menstruation cycles or having a baby. Sometimes depression exists on its own, and it’s hard to figure out the underlying cause. 

Regardless, it’s important to recognize that different types of depression may require unique treatments. A mental health provider can help you figure out what type of depression you may be experiencing, but here is a brief on each to get you started. 

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD, is diagnosed clinically and involves depression symptoms that exceed two weeks and greatly hinder one’s ability to function physically and perform basic daily tasks.  

Bipolar Depression

Those with bipolar disorder go through periods of extreme sadness and depression followed by periods of high energy. In times of sorrow, they can experience any number of depressive symptoms.    

Perinatal and Postpartum Depression

Many women struggle with depressive feelings during and following pregnancy. This type of depression differs from the “baby blues,” in which stress, sadness, and fear are felt less intensely. 

Perinatal and postpartum depression usually pass with time, and treatment can help manage symptoms in the interim. 

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

While Persistent Depressive Disorder, or PDD, may not always be experienced as intensely as MDD, it lasts for a longer period. Specifically, PDD is characterized by symptoms exceeding two years. 

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is linked with premenstrual disorder. Women experience PMDD in the days or weeks before their menstrual period. 

Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression includes the typical signs and symptoms of depression alongside hallucinations and delusions. 

Hallucinations include experiences not based on reality, such as seeing, hearing, or feeling things that do not exist. Delusions are characterized by a sense of false reality and false beliefs about people, situations, or places. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, usually affects people in the late fall and early winter, and it disappears in the spring and summer. SAD is often caused by shorter daylight hours, colder weather, and increased time inside during the fall and winter months.  

What Causes Depression?

No single factor causes depression. 

Sometimes depression can be triggered by experiences, while other times it can be a biological imbalance. Billions of chemical reactions are responsible for the systems that create your mood. Based on your perceptions and life experiences, each person experiences depression and feelings of sadness in different ways. 

Several risk factors can predict depression, including chemical imbalances, genetic predispositions, personality tendencies, and environmental risks. 

Let’s take a look at each of these factors:

  • Biochemistry: Chemical imbalances in the brain can contribute to symptoms of depression. These chemical imbalances usually involve dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, all brain chemicals related to mood regulation. 
  • Genetic predisposition: Depression can be hereditary. Ask your relatives whether you have a family history of depression. Not only can this help your doctors diagnose your condition, but it can also help you find a support system of people who understand your feelings.
  • Personality tendencies: Everyone deals with stress, sadness, and overwhelming circumstances in different ways. Some people might be more optimistic, while others might be more pessimistic. People with pessimistic tendencies also tend to have depressive tendencies.
  • Environmental risks: Depression may be triggered by traumatic events. These can include abuse, neglect, sickness, or loss. 
  • Medications, drugs, and alcohol: Certain medications, drug use, or alcohol misuse might contribute to your depression. Look at your medication labels and check for adverse effects. If depression is a side effect of your medication, your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternate treatment plan.

Depression and the Brain

Several areas of the brain regulate our mood and may contribute to feelings of depression. These areas include the amygdala, thalamus, and hippocampus.


The amygdala is a region of the brain that is part of the limbic system, which manages emotions, including sadness, frustration, pleasure, panic, and sexual arousal. 

This part of the brain also holds emotionally charged memories, such as a scary experience or a joyful moment. When someone feels depressed, the amygdala is often experiencing increased activity.


The thalamus receives and sends sensory information to the cerebral cortex. This sensory information could include talking, moving, studying, thinking, and reacting to certain situations. 

If the thalamus is working improperly, this could negatively impact your feelings and lead to depression.


The hippocampus is also part of the limbic system, and it plays an important role in long-term memory. When working with the amygdala, this section of the brain manages fears linked with specific memories. 

For example, if you were in a car accident at a four-way stop as a young adult, you might still experience feelings of fear and anxiety when you come across a four-way stop as an older adult. The hippocampus appears to be smaller overall in people with depression.        

What Can I Do About My Depression?

Have you heard of treatment-resistant depression? Some depression cases don’t respond to traditional therapies like SSRIs, SNRIs, or tricyclic antidepressants.

There are many alternatives to medication, ranging from psychotherapy counseling sessions to support groups, exercise, and medication, but have you ever considered ketamine

Pasithea Therapeutics has done extensive ketamine research for the treatment of mental health and brain disorders worldwide. Ketamine has been observed to be a safe and effective treatment for depression administered as an IV. Our anesthesiologists and CRNAs will administer treatment in the comfort of your home, reducing the risk of ketamine misuse. Additionally, for many with depression, it is difficult to find the energy or motivation to leave home. If that is you, mobile IV therapy might be the best option.  

Summing It Up

Depression is a common medical condition. Symptoms include feelings of sadness, worthlessness, loss of energy, increasing or decreasing sleep patterns, disinterest in activities that once excited you, increasing or decreasing weight, or thoughts of death or suicide. 

There are several types of depression, ranging from major depressive disorder to seasonal depression. There are many causes of depression, from chemical imbalances to mental disorders, medications, genetic predispositions, and life experiences. These disorders should be managed differently, but there are plenty of ways you can help.

This condition is more common than you might think. Your neighbors, coworkers, family members, or friends might all struggle with these same feelings, and you might be completely unaware. People often avoid talking about their depression. They tend to bury it away, but finding a support system can be extremely helpful during treatment. You can also explore treatment with ketamine, which may help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. 

Managing anxiety can be hard, especially considering the lack of energy and decreased motivation that characterizes comorbid depression. You deserve to feel happy, safe, and calm—maybe ketamine can help. You’ve got this!



What Is Depression? | Psychiatry

What causes depression? | Harvard Health

Depression |

Depression: Types, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic

What Is Melancholia? | Good Therapy

Depression | NIMH 


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