What is depression?
Being clinically depressed is very different from the down type of feeling that all people experience from time to time. Occasional feelings of sadness are a normal part of life, and it is that such feelings are often colloquially referred to as “depression.” In clinical depression, such feelings are out of proportion to any external causes. There are things in everyone’s life that are possible causes of sadness, but people who are not depressed manage to cope with these things without becoming incapacitated.
As one might expect, depression can present itself as feeling sad or “having the blues”. However, sadness may not always be the dominant feeling of a depressed person. Depression can also be experienced as a numb or empty feeling, or perhaps no awareness of feeling at all. A depressed person may experience a noticeable loss in their ability to feel pleasure about anything. Depression, as viewed by psychiatrists, is an illness in which a person experiences a marked change in their mood and in the way they view themselves and the world. Depression as a significant depressive disorder ranges from short in duration and mild to long term and very severe, even life threatening.
Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as do other illnesses such as heart disease. The three most prevalent forms are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder.
What is major depression?
Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms (see symptom list below) that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat; and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. These disabling episodes of depression can occur once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.
What is dysthymia?
A less severe type of depression, dysthymia, involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep you from functioning at “full steam” or from feeling good. Sometimes people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes.
What is bipolar depression (manic-depressive illness)?
Another type of depressive disorder is manic-depressive illness, also called bipolar depression. Not nearly as prevalent as other forms of depressive disorders, manic depressive illness involves cycles of depression and elation or mania. Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual. When in the depressed cycle, you can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, any or all symptoms listed under mania may be experienced. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, unwise business or financial decisions may be made when in a manic phase.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
SAD is a pattern of depressive illness in which symptoms recur every winter. This form of depressive illness often is accompanied by such symptoms as marked decrease in energy, increased need for sleep, and carbohydrate craving. Photo therapy – morning exposure to bright, full spectrum light – can often be dramatically helpful.
What is Post Partum Depression?
Mild moodiness and “blues” are very common after having a baby, but when symptoms are more than mild or last more than a few days, help should be sought. Post part depression can be extremely serious for both mother and baby.
How is bereavement different from depression?
A full depressive syndrome frequently is a normal reaction to the death of a loved one (bereavement), with feelings of depression and such associated symptoms as poor appetite, weight loss, and insomnia. However, morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, prolonged and marked functional impairment, and marked psychomotor retardation are uncommon and suggest that the bereavement is complicated by the development of a Major Depression. The duration of “normal” bereavement varies considerably among different cultural groups.
What is Endogenous Depression?
A depression is said to be endogenous if it occurs without a particular bad event, stressful situation or other definite, outside cause being present in the person’s life. Endogenous depression usually responds well to medication. Some authorities do not consider this to be a useful diagnostic category.
What is atypical depression?
“Atypical depression” is not an official diagnostic category, but it is often discussed informally. A person suffering from atypical depression generally has increased appetite and sleeps more than usual. An atypical depressive may also be able to enjoy pleasurable circumstances despite being unable to seek out such circumstances. This contrasts with the “typical” depressive, who generally has reduced appetite and insomnia, and who is often unable to find pleasure in anything. Despite its name, atypical depression may in fact be more common than the other kind.