Most People Would Say They Have Been Depressed at One Time or Another
We all have periods where we feel sad or down or have “the blues” due to regular life circumstances, and these feelings usually pass within a few days…
Clinical depression is different in that it goes beyond simply being sad. Depression is a serious mood disorder that involves prolonged, intense feelings of sadness, loss, anger, hopelessness, and other negative emotions that interfere with your daily life and your ability to function normally.
How Can You Tell if You Have Depression?
Some of the main symptoms of depression are:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, and anxiety
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Overeating or loss of appetite, often with weight gain or loss
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or self-hatred
- Difficulty concentrating
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Lack of activity, or avoiding activities that were once pleasurable
- Irritability or restlessness
- Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
If you have several of these symptoms for a prolonged period, you should schedule an appointment with a mental health professional, who can determine if you are suffering from a depressive disorder and suggest a course of treatment.
There Are Several Different Forms of Depression:
- Major depressive disorder, or major depression, is incapacitating in that several different symptoms interfere with things such as sleeping, eating, working, studying, and enjoying activities, including sex, that you once found pleasurable. Typically you must have five or more of the above symptoms for more than two weeks to be diagnosed with major depression.
- Minor depression usually involves having fewer than five symptoms for at least two weeks that don’t meet all the criteria for major depression. If minor depression is left untreated, it can progress into major depression.
- Dysthymia, or dysthymic disorder, is characterized by having symptoms over a long period of time, typically two years or longer. It is a milder form of depression in that you may not be entirely disabled by the symptoms as you would be with major depression, but you still may not be able to function normally or feel well.
Some of the Other Forms of Depression…
- Postpartum depression (depression after giving birth)
- Psychotic depression
- Seasonal effective disorder (depression that happens in certain seasons, especially during winter)
- Bipolar disorder, a less common form, is characterized by alternating states of mania and depression.
The causes of depression are extremely varied and can depend on each person’s individual situation. Depression can be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological factors. While some types of depression can run in families, people who have no family history of depression can also develop it. It may be triggered by any number of different things, including alcohol or drug abuse, trauma, the death of a loved one, a difficult relationship, divorce, a job loss, and even medical conditions and treatments such as certain types of cancer, steroid medications, or an under-active thyroid. Then again, a depressive episode can also occur without any clear trigger. In short, depression is an extremely complex illness, and its causes and symptoms must be dealt with on a patient-by-patient basis.
There Are Many Misconceptions Surrounding Depression
The illness manifests itself differently in each person, so it can often be difficult to identify in yourself or someone close to you. Depression affects not only the person suffering from it but the person’s loved ones. For a long time depression carried a strong social stigma, and to a certain extent it still does. This makes it hard for some people to admit there is something wrong and to seek treatment for their depression. Because of misperceptions and ignorance about the true nature of depression, friends and family members may grow impatient with you and think you are simply indulging in self-pity or a bad mood. They may suggest that you need a vacation or should do something fun, or tell you that you just need to “snap out of it.” This is not possible for someone suffering from clinical depression, and having the condition is nothing to be ashamed of.
Depression is More Common Than Most People Think…
Nearly 7% of adults in the United States suffer from major depression every year, and women are 70% more likely to develop depression than men. If not treated properly, depression can have serious adverse consequences on your health and quality of life. It can even be life-threatening; more than 3% of those with major depression commit suicide.
The Good News is; Depression is Treatable
Most people who seek treatment get better. Given the complicated nature of depression and the fact that no two cases are exactly the same, treatment is highly individualized; what works for one person may not work for another. The two main types of treatment are psychotherapy and medication. Some patients can improve with just psychotherapy, while others need the help of medications to regulate the chemicals in the brain in order to feel better. A combination of therapy and medication is often used. It is often a matter of trial and error as you work with your psychiatrist to find the right treatment for you. The most important thing, however, is to seek professional help as soon as possible so that you can get on the way to regaining your life.