Michelle Obama Says She Is Dealing With ‘Low-Grade Depression’

Depression is an illness that affects more than 264 million people worldwide, according to the W.H.O. Dr. Timothy Sullivan, the psychiatry and behavioral sciences chairman at Staten Island University Hospital, described it as a complicated mental state.

“Depending on how it’s defined, anyone, particularly at a time like this, could be experiencing some of the symptoms,” Dr. Sullivan said, including trouble sleeping and low energy.

Depression is a result of individual biological risk factors coupled with influences in the environment, Dr. Sullivan said. “When someone experiences a loss, we know that it can make them sad,” he said, citing one example. “But if that loss also causes them to change fundamental routines that are important to their health, that’s going to create an additional risk factor.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said, “we’ve learned that when people experience significant disruptions in their daily routines, those disruptions can predispose people to depression.”

Asked how the news could affect a person’s mood or battle with depression, Dr. Sullivan said: “I think the main risk with news events is that people tend to ruminate about them. We know that when people ruminate, it increases feelings of helplessness and, in some cases, hopelessness, and that mental state does worsen mood and increases risk of depression.”

Dr. Sullivan said that if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, you should review your daily routines and try to establish healthy patterns, including managing sleep, eating at regular times of the day, exercising and having meaningful social interactions early in the morning, if possible.