Everyone experiences feeling down at one point or another; experiencing the range of emotions that we have is a part of life. There is a difference between feeling the blues and actually being depressed. When people cross over from being sad to depression it is a fairly drastic change that is distinguishable. There is no in-between when it comes to depression; the effects of depression show up in your daily life.
What is Depression ?
Depression is an illness similar to any physical ailment you may suffer (think: ulcers of the mind, you cannot see it but you know it has to be treated). It is not the result of any weakness or frailty in your mind; instead it is caused by a chemical or hormonal imbalance that is easily controlled with the proper medications. This illness can remove all the joy from your life, leaving you without energy and unable to manage even the most mundane of tasks.
Contrary to the belief of those not affected by depression, it is not ‘all in your head’ and you are not just trying to gain the service of a ‘pity party’. There is no easy remedy for depression; it is a real illness that can ruin your life if you do not get help.
Understanding Depression :
Depression affects the way you live your whole life. If you are suffering from depression and need to be diagnosed, you should be aware of what goes into deciding what type of depression you suffer from. There are three main factors that affect the depression diagnosis: frequency, severity and duration.
Frequency – your mental healthcare professional will want to know just how often you feel depressed and if the symptoms last long term. You will be asked if you feel this way daily, weekly, monthly, all the time or intermittently
Severity – they will want to know how bad you feel when you are depressed. They will ask specific questions about if you feel stuck, slow, pessimistic, negative, hopeless, suicidal, etc.
Duration – they need to know just how long the symptoms last. Depending on the type of depression it can be as little as a few hours or as much as months on end. In more severe and chronic cases, the symptoms can be life long.
In some cases the cause of depression is clear. You may have experienced some traumatic event in your life (loss of a loved one, illness, job loss, inability to attain a goal) but in many cases the cause for the depression is not clear. For people who do not have a clear cause for their depression, it could turn out that there are a number of things that cause the depressive state. This cumulative effect can develop over time and result in a constant state of depression.
Depression Symptoms :
There are many symptoms that come with depression and they are expressed in a variety of forms. Most people do not have all of the symptoms but the presence of five or more may indicate a problem. The symptoms include:
Physical – you may have changes in how much you eat or sleep, have a loss of energy or aches and pains with no associated illness or injury.
Behavioral – you no longer have interest or enjoyment of things you used to like (physical, emotional or spiritual), you have difficulty making any decisions and may neglect your responsibilities and even outward appearance
Emotional – your mood is apathetic, sad, hopeless, irritable and generally negative; you may feel anxious, guilty, empty, hopeless, worthless and helpless; you are prone to suicidal thoughts
Types of Depression :
Major Depression (melancholia, unipolar depression) – this type of depression is what most people understand to be depression without realizing that there are several types. Major depression has severe symptoms that include sadness, irritability, fatigue, sleep or weight and appetite changes and even recurring thoughts of suicide. A single episode can last a year if left untreated.
Bipolar Depression (manic depression)– this type of depression has the patient swinging between moods of elation and depression. There can be periods of normal behavior in between swings for someone who suffers from a mild form of bipolar depression, or the person may have an extreme form that can give delusions of grandeur (like being a wealthy political figure), paranoia (everyone is out to get them) and extreme depressive states (suicide risk). Bipolar disorder is also known to have auditory and visual hallucinations
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)– this is a form of depression triggered by the change in seasons, specifically a decrease in the amount of sunlight exposure. This type of depression occurs mainly in places that have four defined seasons and occurs during the period when the sun shines least.
Chronic Depression (dysthemia) – this is a low level, constant depressive state. The symptoms are not as severe as the other forms, but the length of time they are suffered makes this one of the most difficult types of depression to treat.