Depression is an invisible disability or disorder that affects your thoughts, moods, feelings, behavior and physical health.
People used to think it was "all in your head" and that if you really tried, you could "pull yourself out of it." Doctors now know that depression is not a weakness, and you can't treat it on your own. It's a medical disorder with a biological or chemical basis.
Sometimes, a stressful life event triggers depression. Other times depression seems to occur spontaneously with no identifiable specific cause. Whatever the cause, depression is much more than grieving or a bout of the blues.
Depression may occur only once in a person's life. Often, however, it occurs as repeated episodes over a lifetime, with periods free of depression in between. Or it may be a chronic condition, requiring ongoing treatment over a lifetime. The disorder affects more than 18 million Americans of all ages and races.
Medications are available that are generally safe and effective, even for the most severe depression. With proper treatment, most people with serious depression improve, often within weeks, and can return to normal daily activities.
The following is a list of some of the main types of depressive disorders and the kind of symptoms that can be associated with them.
Clinical Depression can range from mild to severe but in order to be classed as major depression, there has to have been at least 5 symptoms of depression for a period of at least two weeks that have been severe enough to interfere with daily routines and that are not related to use of substances, a medical condition, or bereavement.
* Low moods and sadness for most of the time
* Disinterest and lack of pleasure in most activities including sex
* Weight gain or loss with associated increased or diminished appetite
* Sleep disturbances - both insomnia and hypersomnia
* Feeling exhausted when waking up
* Irritability, agitation and restlessness
* Feeling guilty, worthless and/or helpless
* Inability to concentrate and focus
* Fatigue and loss of energy
* Physical aches and pains or digestive problems
* Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
Bipolar disorder is a highly complex depressive disorder that at a basic level can be said to be characterised by severe mood swings fluctuating between extreme "highs" or episodes of mania, to severe "lows" or depressive episodes, however, in reality it isn't quite as simple as that as there is no clear pattern and sometimes symptoms of both mania and depression can be present at the same time (mixed state bipolar).
A manic episode can be diagnosed if at least 3 of the symptoms occur along with an elevated mood for most of the time for at least a week. If the overall mood is one of irritability then another 4 symptoms must be present.
* Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
* Excessively "high," euphoric mood
* Extreme irritability
* Racing thoughts, talking quickly, jumping from one idea to another
* Distractibility, lack off concentration
* Little sleep needed
* Unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers
* Poor judgment
* Spending sprees
* A lasting period of behaviour that is different from usual
* Increased sexual drive
* Alcohol and drug abuse
* Provocative or aggressive behaviour
* Denial that anything is wrong
A depressive episode can be diagnosed if five or more of these symptoms are present for most of the time for a period of at least 2 weeks.
* feeling sad, anxious, or empty mood
* Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
* Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
* Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being "slowed down"
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
* Restlessness or irritability
* Sleeping too much, or can't sleep
* Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain
* Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury
* Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
All teenagers go through periods of sadness and moodiness from time to time so it isn't easy to spot when this has developed into depression. In addition to some of the classic signs of teen depression there are some other signs to watch out for including:
* Headaches and aches and pains not associated with a medical condition
* Frequent absences from school and poor performance
* Persistent boredom, brooding or sulking
* No interest in socialising with peers
* Restless and agitated behaviour
* Often angry, upset or hostile
* Fear of death or dying
* Poor hygiene and neglecting appearance
* Showing extreme sensitivity to rejection
* Self harming
Increasingly, it is being recognised that children suffer from child depression too. Some additional signs to look out for include:
* Refusing to go to school or getting into trouble at school
* Worrying about death or dying
* Pretending to be sick
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is a type of depression occurring during the winter months. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some of the more common symptoms include:
* Mood and behaviour changes coinciding with the winter months
* Feeling tired and lethargic most of the time
* Eating and/or sleeping more than usual
* Frequent sick days from work
* Difficulty in concentrating and making decisions
* Lack of interest in socialising
* Stress, anxiety and/or panic attacks
* Loss of interest in sex
* Generally feeling low
Post Natal Depression
Post Natal Depression can occur after a woman has given birth. The symptoms are similar to those of common depression but can also include:
* Feeling guilty, inadequate, and unable to cope
* Fear of not loving the baby enough
* Resentment, hostility or indifference towards the baby or partner
* Feelings of hopelessness and despondency
* Crying or wanting to cry all the time
* Feeling extremely anxious and panicky
* Obsessive fear and worrying
If you think you or someone close to you is suffering from depression the important thing is to see your GP in the first instance, because with a proper diagnosis and the right help, depression is treatable.