Depression is a condition that most people think of as being “stuck” in a low mood of either sadness or grief. With colder weather and shorter daylight hours on the horizon, we all can begin to feel a little down.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression strikes millions each year, often with debilitating consequences.
This psychological disorder is so common that it is sometimes referred to as the “common cold” of mental health, as nearly 10 percent of the population suffers from a depressive disorder at any given time.
We all get down or have sad periods in our lives from time to time that can last a period of days or weeks, but when it continues for an extended period that keeps you from leading a normal, active, productive life you may need to evaluate yourself, your feelings, and seek treatment.
There are several different types of depression:
- Major depression is one of the most severe types. It is an episode of change in mood that lasts for weeks or months. It usually involves a low or irritable mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities. A person may experience only one episode of major depressive disorder, but often there are repeated episodes over a lifetime.
- Dysthymia, often called melancholy, is less severe than major depression, but usually goes on for a longer period, often several years. There are usually periods of normalcy between episodes of low mood and symptoms do not completely disrupt a person’s normal activities.
- Bipolar disorder involves episodes of depression, usually severe, alternating with episodes of extreme elation called mania.
- Seasonal depression, also known as SAD, seasonal affective disorder or the winter blues, is a type of depression that only occurs at certain times of the year, usually in winter when the number of daylight hours decreases. Although predictable, it can be severe.
- Psychotic depression refers to the situation when depression and hallucinations, or delusions are experienced at the same time.
This may be the result of a depression that becomes so severe that it results in the individual losing touch with reality.
Symptoms of depression can vary for each individual and depends on the type of depression. Common symptoms can include:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions.
- Fatigue and decreased energy.
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping.
- Loss of interest in hobbies once pleasurable, including sex.
- Overeating or loss of appetite.
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment.
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings.
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.
The general consensus may be that depression is normal in the elderly, people who have health problems, or people who have had personal problems, setbacks or tragedies. But clinical depression is always abnormal and requires medical attention.
Life has its ups and downs. We all experience that roller coaster. And sometimes when we are down it is hard to bounce back.
The good news is that depression can be diagnosed and treated effectively in most people. The largest hurtle is to recognize the symptoms and seek appropriate treatment for yourself or a loved one.